CREW Asks Ethics to Investigate Rep. Deal

Posted August 26, 2009 at 11:52am

A government watchdog group on Wednesday called on the Office of Congressional Ethics to review whether Rep. Nathan Deal (R-Ga.) may have violated House rules when he lobbied Georgia state leaders last year to save a state-funded program that benefits his family business.

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington issued a letter Wednesday to the Office of Congressional Ethics, requesting it review Deal’s conduct, including the use of official Congressional e-mail and his chief of staff, Chris Riley, to lobby state officials to maintain the program.

“Members of Congress are prohibited from abusing their offices for self-enrichment, yet that is exactly what Rep. Deal has done,— CREW wrote in its complaint. “The congressman has abused his position, taxpayer resources, and the public trust to ensure nothing interferes with his sweetheart deal with the state of Georgia. The Office of Congressional Ethics should immediately investigate this matter and if the facts so warrant, refer it to the Department of Justice for a criminal inquiry.—

As first reported Saturday by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Deal, assisted by Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, met on multiple occasions in 2008 with state officials who planned to overhaul the state’s system for inspecting rebuilt salvaged vehicles.

According to the newspaper, in early 2008 Deal objected to proposals by Georgia Revenue Commissioner Bart Graham to expand the number of inspection stations in the state and award contracts to those stations through a competitive bidding process.

Together with his business partner Ken Cronan, Deal owns Recovery Services Inc., also known as Gainesville Salvage & Disposal, one of the eight existing inspection stations that Graham had criticized as “regional monopolies.—

According to business records obtained by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Deal’s Gainesville Salvage & Disposal earned $1.5 million from 2004 to 2008 from the salvage inspection program. In his most recent financial disclosure for calendar year 2008, Deal reported earning between $50,000 and $100,000 in “dividends— from the “family business,— which is valued between $1 million and $5 million. He also reported earning between $15,000 and $50,000 in “rent— from the business.

In an interview with the Journal-Constitution, Deal denied any wrongdoing in his efforts to prevent changes to the salvage inspection program.

“I’ve tried to be cautious about this,— Deal told the newspaper. “I don’t think I have done anything that stepped over the line.—

The Office of Congressional Ethics is tasked with reviewing and recommending potential ethics investigations to the full Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, commonly referred to as the ethics committee.

Although the office is prohibited from reviewing matters that occurred before March 2008, the date the OCE was approved by House lawmakers, the office may review incidents that occurred prior to its inception if those matters are part of a pattern of behavior that extends beyond that date.