Ethics panel in­ves­ti­gates Reps. Berkley, Buchanan

Both law­mak­ers ex­pect to be cleared

The Washington Times Daily - - Politics - BY CHUCK NEUBAUER

The House Ethics Com­mit­tee is con­duct­ing a pre­lim­i­nary in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Rep. Shel­ley Berkley, Ne­vada Demo­crat, who is run­ning for the Se­nate, over al­le­ga­tions she used her con­gres­sional po­si­tion to help her hus­band’s busi­ness.

The com­mit­tee also an­nounced Fri­day it is con­duct­ing a sep­a­rate pre­lim­i­nary in­quiry into Rep. Vern Buchanan, Florida Re­pub­li­can, who al­ready is be­ing looked at by the panel for fil­ing in­com­plete per­sonal fi­nan­cial dis­clo­sures. The com­mit­tee did not spec­ify what new al­le­ga­tions it is in­ves­ti­gat­ing.

Spokes­men for both law­mak­ers pre­dicted their mem­bers would be cleared.

The ethics com­mit­tee said it be­gan the in­quiries in Fe­bru­ary af­ter the Of­fice of Con­gres­sional Ethics, an in­de­pen­dent of­fice which takes a first look at ac­cu­sa­tions against House mem­bers, rec­om­mended the com­mit­tee con­duct in­ves­ti­ga­tions of Ms. Berkley and Mr. Buchanan.

The com­mit­tee said it needed un­til July 9 to de­ter­mine if it should launch a full-scale probe of Ms. Berkley, a seven-term con­gress­woman, and un­til May 9 for Mr. Buchanan, a three-term con­gress­man.

The an­nounce­ment comes at a bad time for Ms. Berkley who is hop­ing to knock off in­cum­bent Sen. Dean Heller, Ne­vada Re­pub­li­can, who was ap­pointed af­ter the April 2011 res­ig­na­tion of for­mer Sen. John Ensign over ethics charges. The race is con­sid­ered a tossup.

Jes­sica Mack­ler, Ms. Berkley’s cam­paign man­ager, said in a state­ment the com­mit­tee is look­ing at the con­gress­woman’s suc­cess­ful ef­forts to keep a kid­ney trans­plant pro­gram at a Ne­vada hospi­tal. Ms. Berkley’s hus­band, Dr. Lawrence Lehrner, later won a $738,000-a-year con­tract for his com­pany from the hospi­tal’s kid­ney care depart­ment, ac­cord­ing to the New York Times.

“As the com­mit­tee re­views this com­plaint, they will de­ter­mine that Con­gress­woman Shel­ley Berkley’s only con­cern is for the well-be­ing of Ne­vada’s pa­tients,” Ms. Mack­ler said. “That’s why she fought against out-of­s­tate Washington bu­reau­crats from re­strict­ing pa­tients’ ac­cess to care.”

Ms. Mack­ler said Mr. Heller, then a con­gress­man, and for­mer Rep. Jon Porter, Ne­vada Re­pub­li­can, both helped the con­gress­woman “to stop Ne­vada’s only kid­ney trans­plant pro­gram from be­ing shut down, which would have de­nied life sav­ing treat­ment to hun­dreds of Ne­vadans.”

She said that last fall, the Ne­vada Re­pub­li­can Party filed an ethics com­plaint against Ms. Berkley af­ter the New York Times re­port.

A spokesman for Mr. Buchanan called the ethics com­mit­tee an­nounce­ment a “rou­tine no­ti­fi­ca­tion” that “says noth­ing at all about the mer­its” and re­flects the panel’s heavy work­load.

“We are work­ing with the com­mit­tee and are con­fi­dent that, at the end of its re­view, the com­mit­tee will con­clude that Con­gress­man Buchanan en­gaged in no wrong­do­ing.” said his press sec­re­tary, Max Good­man.

The ethics panel is still con­duct­ing its ear­lier probe to de­ter­mine if Mr. Buchanan, who made a for­tune as an auto dealer, broke any fed­eral laws by fail­ing to list di­rec­tor po­si­tions on his per­sonal fi­nan­cial dis­clo­sures. A fed­eral grand jury is re­port­edly look­ing into fundrais­ing for Mr. Buchanan’s con­gres­sional cam­paigns.

The com­mit­tee said the dis­clo­sure of the in­ves­ti­ga­tions “does not it­self in­di­cate that any vi­o­la­tion has oc­curred.”

The an­nounce­ments of the pre­lim­i­nary in­ves­ti­ga­tions were made by Rep. Jo Bon­ner, Alabama Re­pub­li­can, who chairs the ethics com­mit­tee, and Rep. Linda T. Sanchez of Cal­i­for­nia, the panel’s rank­ing Demo­crat. The com­mit­tee can de­cide to em­panel an in­ves­tiga­tive sub­com­mit­tee to con­duct a full-scale in­ves­ti­ga­tion, drop the case or ask for more time to re­view the al­le­ga­tions.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.