House Ethics Committee Rebuts OCE on Graves
House ethics committee leaders reiterated Wednesday night that evidence gathered in an investigation of Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo.) “may be substantially favorable or exculpatory to him,— a terse rebuttal to earlier Office of Congressional Ethics assertions that the Missouri lawmaker may have violated the chamber’s rules.The brief statement is also the latest salvo in a public spat between the two ethics overseers that centers on the investigation into Graves, which was revealed in a Wednesday morning statement from the ethics committee.The OCE reviews suspected rules violations and recommends investigations to the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, commonly known as the ethics panel.Once the committee has issued a recommendation to the ethics panel, the committee has 45 days to review the matter before it must publicize the OCE’s report and recommendations. The ethics committee can opt to extend that period an additional 45 days, as it voted to do Tuesday in the Graves inquiry.“After careful deliberation, the Committee voted to extend the matter referred by the Office of Congressional Ethics regarding Representative Sam Graves for 45 days and to provide Representative Graves with evidence that may be substantially favorable or exculpatory to him, as required by the Committee’s rules,— Ethics Chairwoman Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) and ranking member Jo Bonner (R-Ala.) said in a statement. “The Committee will not comment further at this time, but will announce its course of action before or by the end of the 45-day review period.—In an earlier statement, the OCE chided a release issued by the ethics committee Wednesday morning stating that OCE had violated its own rules and failed to provide Graves with exculpatory evidence, or information that could potentially clear the Missouri lawmaker of the allegations.“The information the [Committee on Standards of Official Conduct] suggests may’ be exculpatory was either in Representative Graves’ possession directly or through his counsel, or was not pertinent,— the OCE stated. “We respectfully note that documents in the referral to the SOOC make this clear. The OCE would never withhold exculpatory information from a subject of an investigation and did not in this instance.—Although the committee did not detail what allegations it is investigating with regard to Graves, the Missouri lawmaker issued a statement Wednesday referring to allegations about testimony at a Small Business Committee hearing.In March, Roll Call reported that the Congressman invited his friend and neighbor Brooks Hurst to testify before a Congressional hearing on renewable fuels, without mentioning that his wife and Hurst are investors together in renewable fuels plants in Missouri.“I look forward to a quick review of the facts and answering any questions that the Committee may have,— Graves said in the statement issued Wednesday. “I believe that a speedy review will show that all the rules of the House concerning testimony in front of the Small Business Committee were followed.—Graves is the ranking member on the Small Business Committee, which held the March 4 hearing on “The State of the Renewable Fuels Industry in the Current Economy.—At that hearing, Graves introduced Hurst as a farmer from northwest Missouri and added that Hurst’s family “is very active in biodiesel and ethanol production.—Hurst added, “I’m also a member and investor in a small ethanol plant in the town of Craig.—The only ethanol plant in Craig, Mo., is the Golden Triangle Energy Cooperative.Graves’ financial disclosure forms indicate that his wife’s investment in Golden Triangle produced $15,001 to $50,000 in income in 2006 and $5,000 to $15,000 in 2007 and 2008. That investment was originally listed on Graves’ disclosure forms as being a joint asset that he shared with his wife.Paul Singer contributed to this report.