The House Ethics Committee voted Thursday to impanel investigative subcommittees to examine Reps. Duncan Hunter of California and Chris Collins of New York. But neither panel plans to conduct work on the investigation at this time, deferring to the Justice Department for now.
The Republican congressmen were both indicted on separate charges in August — Hunter for misuse of campaign funds and Collins for insider trading.
The DOJ, which brought forth the charges and is leading prosecution efforts against both lawmakers, has asked the Ethics Committee to defer action on both matters and it has agreed.
Under committee rules, the panel has 30 days from a member being indicted or formally charged with criminal conduct to either establish an investigative subcommittee or report to the House with its reasons for not impaneling an investigation.
Thus, the Hunter and Collins investigative subcommittees are purely symbolic for now. The Ethics Committee did not say how long the DOJ has requested they defer their investigations into Hunter and Collins, but it’s likely the panel won’t take action until court proceedings conclude.
At the appropriate time, the Hunter subcommittee will look into whether he violated the House code of official conduct or any “law, rule, regulation, or other applicable standard of conduct in the performance of his duties” in relation to his indictment in August.
Hunter was indicted on charges of engaging in an unlawful conspiracy, fraud, falsification of campaign finance records and illegal use of campaign funds.
The Ethics Committee opened an investigation into Hunter last year based on a referral from the Office of Congressional Ethics, but it also deferred action on that at the request of the DOJ.
New Jersey GOP Rep. Leonard Lance will chair the Hunter investigative subcommittee and Maryland Rep. Anthony G. Brown will serve as the top Democrat. Reps. John Katko, a New York Republican, and Joaquin Castro, a Texas Democrat, are the other lawmakers on the panel.
The Ethics Committee also opened an investigation into Collins last year based on an OCE referral. It had not been requested to defer action on Collins, so it presumably had been investigating the New York lawmaker up until his indictment.
The newly impaneled Collins subcommittee could eventually look into whether the he violated the House code of official conduct in relation to his indictment in August alleging he engaged in conspiracy, securities fraud and wire fraud.
But most likely the subcommittee will never take action on the Collins matter since his court proceedings are likely to extend into next year. Collins is not running for re-election, and the Ethics Committee only has jurisdiction to investigate sitting members of Congress.
California GOP Rep. Mimi Walters was named chair of the Collins subcommittee, with Florida Rep. Ted Deutch serving as ranking Democrat. Reps. Randy Hultgren, an Illinois Republican, and Jared Polis, a Colorado Democrat, will round out the quartet.
Lindsey McPherson contributed to this report.ICYMI: Collins Allegedly Shared Insider Trading Knowledge While At Congressional Picnic