Ethics Office Ends Investigation of Young

Posted December 19, 2009 at 7:13pm

The Office of Congressional Ethics has closed its investigation into Rep. Bill Young (R-Fla.) and his ties to the now-defunct lobbying firm PMA Group, and the OCE advised against further investigation by the House ethics committee, Young’s office said Saturday.

Three lawmakers who faced similar investigations — Reps. John Murtha (D-Pa.), Norm Dicks (D-Wash.) and Jim Moran (D-Va.) — confirmed Friday that the OCE, which reviews potential rules violations and refers investigations to the House ethics committee, had ended those inquiries without recommending further review.

“Congressman Young met with [OCE staff], provided all the information they asked for, and the staff of the OCE was complimentary of meeting with them and being so thorough,— said Harry Glenn, Young’s chief of staff. “He’s pleased that everything was fine, as he expected it would be.—

Glenn said Young was contacted by OCE staff Nov. 25, and he was informed the board had made a unanimous decision, 6-0, to recommend to the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct — commonly known as the ethics committee — that the investigation be dismissed. Young subsequently received a letter confirming that phone call, Glenn said.

The OCE has never publicly confirmed its investigation into PMA, but a confidential document leaked in October showed the office reviewing seven lawmakers — Dicks, Murtha, Moran and Young as well as Reps. Peter Visclosky (D-Ind.), Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio) and Todd Tiahrt (R-Kan.) — in the matter.

According to a copy of that document published on the Web site Wikileaks.org, the OCE investigation focused on whether Members accepted contributions or other items of value from PMA’s political action committee in exchange for official acts.

PMA employees and clients were leading donors to Murtha, Visclosky, Moran, Dicks and other members of the House Appropriations Committee, and they received multiple earmarks from these and other Members.

According to a one-page OCE report issued to Moran and provided by his office to Roll Call, the OCE investigation examined earmarks that Moran designated for PMA clients in fiscal 2009, as well as contributions that he received during the 2008 and 2010 cycles from PMA’s PAC and its employees, and from PMA clients and their PACs.

The OCE report states that it reviewed whether Moran could have violated federal bribery, gratuity and gift statutes, as well as House rules. The report concludes by stating that the OCE board voted unanimously to recommend dismissal of its probe to the House ethics committee.

The ethics committee announced its own review of PMA in June but has not named any lawmakers under review to date or even which House rules infractions it is examining.

Ethics committee leaders acknowledged a document leak in October but have not confirmed the authenticity of the Wikileaks-published document.

Although the OCE did not recommended further review of Murtha, Dicks, Moran or Young, the ethics committee could opt to continue its own investigation or to pursue information provided by the OCE.

Under ethics committee rules, the panel has up to 90 days — a mandatory 45-day period and an optional 45-day extension — to review the OCE’s recommendation and make its own decision.

In either event, the ethics committee would have broader authority to review PMA-related matters.

The OCE is prohibited from reviewing allegations that occurred prior to March 2008, when House lawmakers established the office. The ethics committee is allowed to review any actions within the three most recent Congressional cycles.

In addition, the ethics committee has subpoena power to compel testimony and documents, which the OCE does not.

It is not known whether the OCE has recommended further investigation in the case of other lawmakers named in the leaked ethics report.

FBI agents raided the defense appropriations-focused PMA in November 2008, reportedly as part of an investigation into improper campaign contributions.

Visclosky had previously confirmed in May that his offices and aides had been subpoenaed by federal investigators examining the Indiana lawmaker’s relationship with PMA.