House Sends Resolution on PMA Probe Back to Ethics

Posted March 18, 2010 at 4:29pm

Updated: 5:47 p.m.

House lawmakers Thursday punted a resolution demanding the chamber’s ethics committee reveal to Congress the details — including witnesses, subpoenas and documents — of its investigation of earmarks Members provided to clients of the PMA Group lobbying firm, sending the measure to the ethics committee itself for review.

Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) sponsored the resolution seeking statistical information on the number of witnesses the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct interviewed in its PMA review, as well as the number of subpoenas it issued and information on any documents it collected.

But House lawmakers voted 397-0 to refer the resolution to the ethics committee. Although the ethics panel could opt to review the resolution and send it back to the House floor for a vote, it is not required to act on the measure.

“This is a matter that properly belongs before the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct,” said Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), who was the only Member to address the resolution on the floor.

The ethics committee at the end of February issued a report exonerating several 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 March 8 that the ethics committee apparently interviewed no Members who were closely linked to PMA, and almost 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.). The OCE also suggested the ethics committee issue subpoenas to force cooperation by some companies. The committee ultimately opted to close the investigations of all seven Members.

Flake said he was pleased with the House vote.

“It’s important to note that, because this resolution was referred to committee and not passed, the Ethics Committee is not obligated to act on it,” Flake, who voted to refer the resolution, said in a statement. “However, given that the vote was unanimous, I hope that the Ethics Committee decides to take action and release details of the
breadth, or lack thereof, of their PMA investigation. If the Ethics Committee ignores this resolution, I will be back with more.”