Probe targets lawmakers' fundraisers


A controversial investigation by the Office of Congressional Ethics into fundraising by eight lawmakers prior to the House vote on financial services reform is continuing, but whether the ethics committee will launch a full-scale probe is still far from clear.

OCE is also running into its own internal deadline for making recommendations on investigations to the ethics committee, further complicating the outlook for both the members being targeted and the ethics watchdog office.

The OCE, created by the House in the 111th Congress, has been looking into fundraising by the lawmakers prior to the Dec. 11 vote on the Democratic package of Wall Street and banking reforms, known then as the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2009. The Senate is expected to take up a final vote on the legislation, now called the Restoring American Financial Stability Act of 2010, today.

OCE is exploring whether fundraising, and tens of thousands of dollars of campaign contributions from financial services organizations and their cadre of lobbyists, swayed members’ votes. The members under investigation include Reps. John Campbell (R-Calif.), Joseph Crowley (D-N.Y.), Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas), Christopher Lee (R-N.Y.), Frank Lucas (R-Okla.), Earl Pomeroy (D-N.D.), Tom Price (R-Ga.) and Mel Watt (D-N.C.).

All five Republicans voted against the bill on final passage, while the Democrats supported it.

The existence of the OCE investigation was first reported by The Hill on June 14.

OCE has sent out more than three dozen requests for information to donors and lobbyists, seeking details on their dealings with the lawmakers in question since Jan. 1, 2009, The New York Times reported Thursday.

Under OCE rules, only two members of its six-member board — one Republican appointee, and one Democrat — are required to submit a written request seeking a “Phase 1 preliminary review.” This period lasts 30 days. In order to move onto the second-phase review, three OCE board members must back it. Four members must approve making a recommendation to the ethics committee for a formal probe.

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