Ethics Won’t Pursue Graves Investigation

Posted October 29, 2009 at 3:18pm

Updated: 5:24 p.m.The House ethics committee Thursday declared Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo.) innocent of violating the chamber’s rules earlier this year when he invited a friend — his wife’s business partner — to testify before the Small Business Committee.“The Standards Committee found that no relevant House rules or other standards of conduct prohibits the creation of an appearance of a conflict of interest when selecting witnesses for a committee hearing,— stated a report issued by the committee on Thursday. The report also noted Graves received no financial benefit from the 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.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 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.Hurst told Roll Call in 2007 that in 2005 he also recruited “the Graves family— to become original investors with him in a biodiesel plant in Mexico, Mo. In 2007, that investment earned Lesley Graves $1,000 to $2,500 in income, but only $200 to $1,000 in 2008, according to Graves’ disclosure forms.Brooks Hurst and his family members have donated $14,400 to Graves’ campaigns since 2000, according to Federal Election Commission data.“I want to thank the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct for voting unanimously to dismiss the matter involving me referred to it by the Board of the Office of Congressional Ethics,— Graves said in a statement. “I appreciate the Committee’s work and its prompt dismissal of this matter.—He added: “In dismissing this matter, the Committee found that not only was there no violation of any rule, but that even if the allegation were true, there would have been no violation of any rule. The anonymous accusation amounted to nothing more than a political smear.—The OCE, which reviews potential ethics violations and recommends investigations to the ethics committee, does not comment on its investigations.However, in a quarterly report issued Tuesday, the OCE sought to quash allegations that it initiates investigations based on anonymous complaints.“The OCE Board notes that in all cases before deciding to authorize a preliminary review it exercises reasonable due diligence to determine that objectively verifiable facts exist to substantiate an allegation and that the standard of proof set out in its Rules is met, namely, that a ‘reasonable basis’ exists to believe an allegation,— the report states.“Such a determination does not constitute a finding that a violation has actually occurred. The OCE Board has never authorized a review based on an anonymous ‘complaint’ or a newspaper article,— the report continued.