U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky, D-1st, is facing the possibility of a formal
investigation by the U.S. House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct.
In a brief statement released on Friday, the committee said that it is
“extending the matter regarding” Visclosky after the Office of Congressional
Ethics (OCE) issued a recommendation for further review on Dec. 2.
OCE is an independent, non-partisan body charged with reviewing allegations
of misconduct against members, officers, and staff of the House. “The
mission of the OCE and its board is to assist the United States House of
Representatives in upholding high standards of ethical conduct,” the OCE
states on its webpage.
The Committee on Standards of Official Conduct said that it will “announce
its course of action in this matter” on or before March 2.
Since early last year Visclosky’s relationship with The PMA Group, a
Washington, D.C., lobbying firm, has been under scrutiny after it was
reported that the now defunct firm is under investigation by the U.S.
Department of Justice. Over several election cycles Visclosky’s campaign
committees received hundreds of thousands of dollars in contributions from
PMA associates and clients alike, while for their part many of those clients
received lucrative federal contracts in the form of earmarks secured by
Data compiled by Taxpayers for Common Sense and the Center for Responsive
Politics show that in Fiscal Year 2008, for example, Visclosky secured 16
earmarks totaling $23,800,000 for PMA clients. Eight of those nine PMA
clients—the recipients of nine separate earmarks totaling $12.6
million—contributed a total of $343,599 to Visclosky’s campaign committees
over the last five election cycles.
Under House rules, members may accept donations from donors for whom they
have secured earmarks, on the grounds that members have no financial
interest in those campaign contributions.
Visclosky’s office released this statement today to the Chesterton
Tribune: “Representative Visclosky remains confident that the Committee
on Standards will reject the OCE’s recommendation for further review of this
matter and conclude that there in no evidence that he violated any law or
House rule related to his work on the Appropriations Committee. In the
unlikely event that the committee elects to review the matter,
Representative Visclosky intends to cooperate fully and believes that the
committee will conclude that he engaged in no wrongdoing whatsoever.
Representative Visclosky looks forward to getting this matter behind him and
continuing to work hard to serve all of his constituents in the First
Any citizen may bring a matter of suspected misconduct to OCE’s attention. A
preliminary review, to be completed in 30 days, may be authorized by two OCE
board members “if all available information provides a reasonable basis
to believe that a violation may have occurred,” OCE states on its webpage.
A second-phase review, to be completed in 45 days, may then be authorized by
three board members “if all available information provides probable cause
to believe a violation has occurred.”
“At the end of any second-phase review, the board must recommend to the
(Committee on Standards of Official Conduct) either that the matter requires
the committee’s further review or that it should dismiss the matter,” OCE
On Dec. 2 OCE recommended to the committee that a further review of
Visclosky is warranted.
“A recommendation for further review does not constitute a determination
that a violation has occurred,” OCE states.
•In February 2009 Visclosky announced that he would return $18,000 in
contributions made over the last two election cycles by three men listed in
Federal Election Commission (FEC) records as PMA associates but who in fact
appear to have had no genuine affiliation at all with PMA.
•In March 2009 Visclosky confirmed media reports that a former chief of his
staff, Rich Kaelen—who worked for Visclosky over a seven-month period in
2003—had subsequently been in the employ of PMA.
•Also in March 2009 the treasurer of the Visclosky for Congress Committee
asked the FEC to issue an advisory opinion on the legality of Visclosky’s
use of campaign funds to defray legal costs associated with the federal
•In April 2009, citing the PMA issue, Visclosky announced that in the Fiscal
Year 2010 appropriations bill he would seek no earmarks for any for-profit
•In May 2009 Visclosky announced that the U.S. Justice Department had served
grand-jury subpoenas seeking documents to his campaign committees, his
Congressional office, and certain unnamed staffers.
•In the June 2 edition of the Congressional Record Visclosky’s chief
of staff, Chuck Brimmer, announced that he had been served with a subpoena.
•On June 3 Visclosky spokesman Jacob Ritvo confirmed that Brimmer had
retired but declined to say exactly when Brimmer tendered his resignation.
•Later In June 2009, citing the likelihood that the PMA issue would make him
a lightning rod for partisan attack, Visclosky announced that a colleague on
the Energy and Water Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Commission had
agreed to assume responsibility for managing the Fiscal Year 2010 Energy and
Water appropriations bill. Visclosky did retain his chairmanship of the
•Also in June 2009 the FEC ruled that Visclosky may use campaign funds to
defray legal costs associated with the federal investigation.
•In August 2009 the FEC ruled that Visclosky may also use campaign funds to
defray the legal expenses incurred by past or current staffers in connection
with the investigation.