The House Ethics Committee delivered some good news to Rep. Tom Petri on his final day of legislative business in Congress: Their review of allegations against the Wisconsin Republican has closed, with no wrongdoing found.
If any bad conduct occurred, the committee concluded, it might have been because Petri was acting on bad advice from Ethics Committee staffers, who are burdened with hundreds of requests for guidance each week. The Ethics Committee began looking into the matter in July, though Petri initially asked for an investigation in the spring, when his ties to Oshkosh Corp. started drawing attention from the media.
After an investigation by the Office of Congressional Ethics concluded the 17-term lawmaker may have used his position in Congress to advocate for two companies in which he held significant financial interest — in violation of House rules — the panel established a fact-finding probe.
Pursuant to rules, the committee was not obligated to make any further public disclosures about the case. Outgoing Chairman K. Michael Conaway, R-Texas, and ranking member Linda T. Sánchez, D-Calif., could have let their authority to explore the case expire on the congressman's last day on Capitol Hill.
Instead, they resolved allegations against him in a 10-page report released Thursday, stating that OCE "may have failed to consider some evidence in its proper context, and mistakenly considered some other evidence," when the office found that Petri did not fully and accurately disclose information to the committee in circumstances where he should have sought guidance.
The committee determined that Petri's conduct with regards to Oshkosh and Manitowac, both located in his district, was either consistent with the committee staffs' advice, or was not enough to raise concerns about conflicts of interest. They conclude that Petri repeatedly sought guidance from committee staff, and engaged in "substantially complete and accurate — albeit imperfect — level of disclosure in seeking such informal advice." The report also notes that Congress is entitled to rely on the staff-level analysis, the committee states, and Petri appears to have in large part complied.
“The Ethics Committee confirms what I have said all along—I regularly consulted with the Committee to ensure everything was done in accordance with House rules," Petri said in a statement. "I have always sought to represent my constituents in an honest and open way, and that is why I requested this review. I thank the Ethics Committee for acting before my term is up, and I’m glad they were able to specifically address and ultimately reject the misconceptions and inaccurate allegations that were published this year.”
Related: Ethics Office Finds Evidence That Petri Violated House Rules Why Did Petri Ask to Be Investigated? The 114th: CQ Roll Call's Guide to the New Congress Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call in your inbox or on your iPhone.