Flake Resolution Seeks Details on PMA Earmark Probe

Posted March 9, 2010 at 8:16pm

Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) offered a privileged resolution Tuesday that would require the House ethics committee to tell Congress how many witnesses it interviewed, how many subpoenas it issued and how many documents it reviewed in its investigation of earmarks Members provided to clients of the PMA Group lobbying firm.

The ethics committee at the end of February issued a report exonerating House Members of any improper activities relating to PMA, the lobbying firm that was raided by the FBI in late 2008 as part of an investigation into improper campaign contributions.

But Roll Call reported Monday that the ethics committee apparently interviewed no Members who were closely linked to PMA, and virtually no staff either. Roll Call did not locate any PMA client firms that had been contacted by the ethics committee.

The Office of Congressional Ethics had filed reports with the ethics committee on seven members of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense, recommending that the committee open broader investigations of two members, Reps. Todd Tiahrt (R-Kan.) and Peter Visclosky (D-Ind.). OCE also suggested the issuance of subpoenas to force cooperation by some companies. The committee decided instead to close the investigations of all seven Members.

Flake’s resolution would give the ethics committee seven days to report back to the House on what its investigation entailed.

In a floor statement Tuesday night, Flake said, “I think it is fair to ask what the Standards Committee did regarding this investigation. … I think it is reasonable to ask whether the Standards Committee issued subpoenas or otherwise sought cooperation from these reluctant witnesses. It appears they did not.”

Flake spokesman Matt Specht said Tuesday, “We expect the vote on this resolution to test the commitment of this Congress to transparency.”

The House must vote on a privileged resolution within 48 hours.