Deal Acknowledges Ethics Probe Related to Auto-Salvage Business

Posted December 15, 2009 at 2:20pm

Rep. Nathan Deal (R-Ga.) acknowledged Tuesday a Congressional ethics investigation into a state-funded program that benefits his family auto-salvage business.

Deal denied any wrongdoing, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, stating in an online chat conducted by his gubernatorial campaign: “No, I’ve done nothing wrong. I welcome an opportunity to state the facts.—

According to documents the Journal-Constitution obtained through the state’s open records act, both the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct and the Office of Congressional Ethics have contacted state offices, including the Georgia Department of Revenue.

Earlier this year, the Journal-Constitution reported on Deal’s efforts to halt an overhaul of the state’s system for inspecting rebuilt salvaged vehicles.

According to the newspaper, in early 2008 Deal objected to proposals by a Georgia state official 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.

According to business records obtained by the 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 from $50,000 to $100,000 in “dividends— from the “family business,— which is valued from $1 million to $5 million. He also reported earning from $15,000 to $50,000 in “rent— from the business.

Prompted by the news report, the government watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington called on the OCE in August to review whether Deal may have violated House rules when he lobbied Georgia state leaders last year to halt changes to the auto salvage program.

The OCE is tasked with reviewing and recommending potential ethics investigations to the House 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.