Chesterton Tribune                                                                                   Adv.

AP report: Visclosky cleared by House panel investigation

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By KEVIN NEVERS

The Associated Press was reporting Thursday that a U.S. House committee panel has found no reason to pursue an investigation against U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky, D-1st, and four other senior members of the House Appropriations Committee who accepted campaign contributions from companies for whom they obtained earmarks.

The Committee on Standards of Official Conduct has ended its probe and “found no violation of House rules,” the AP reported.

The AP said that it has obtained a copy of the committee’s final report. As of deadline today, the committee had posted no report to its website and no one from the committee’s office had returned a call to the Chesterton Tribune seeking confirmation of the AP’s story.

Visclosky himself, however, released this statement on Thursday: “I am pleased with today’s announcement and will continue to work diligently on behalf of the people of Indiana’s 1st Congressional District.”

In addition to Visclosky, four other members of the House Appropriations Committee were cleared, the AP reported: the late John Murtha, D-Pa.; Norman Dicks, D-Wash.; Marcy Kaptur, D-Ohio; and C.W. “Bill” Young, R-Fla.

In December the Office of Congressional Ethics—an independent non-partisan body charged with reviewing allegations of misconduct against members of Congress—recommended that the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct undertake a review of Visclosky’s and his colleagues’ dealings with The PMA Group and its clients.

Since early last year Visclosky’s relationship with PMA 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 Visclosky.

Data compiled by Taxpayers for Common Sense and the Center for Response Politics show that in Fiscal Year 2008, for example, Visclosky secured 16 earmarks totaling $23,800,000 for PMA clients. Eight of those 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.

Any findings by the Committee on Standards of Professional Conduct are separate from the federal investigation into PMA. In May 2009 Visclosky announced that the U.S. Justice Department had served grand-jury subpoenas seeking documents to his campaign committees, Congressional office, and certain staffers. Last summer the Federal Election Committee ruled that both Visclosky and his staffers may use campaign funds to defray legal expenses associated with the investigation.

Visclosky spent several hundred thousand dollars in campaign funds last year on his own legal bills and on his staffers’ in connection with that federal investigation. One of those staffers, Chuck Brimmer, was subpoenaed in June and subsequently resigned.

 

Posted 2/26/2010

 

 

 

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