Three House lawmakers -- two Republicans and one Democrat -- may soon be under investigation by the House ethics committee for potential links between their political fundraisers and subsequent votes on the financial reform bill.
The Office of Congressional Ethics -- an independent body -- has referred cases involving John Campbell, R-Calif., Tom Price, R-Ga., and Joseph Crowley, D-N.Y., to the ethics committee, but did not recommend further investigation of five other lawmakers it had previously included in its probe.
All three lawmakers held fundraisers in December, "around the time of crucial House votes," reported The Associated Press. (In statements, Campbell and Price both expressed surprise at the referral and said there was no evidence suggesting wrongdoing. Crowley's office issued a statement asserting that he "has always complied with the letter and spirit of all rules regarding fundraising and standards of conduct.")
The House ethics committee will decide whether to investigate further. It already is handling two high-profile ethics cases -- Rep. Charlie Rangel, D-N.Y., and Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., await public hearings -- as well as investigating whether a half-dozen lawmakers misused overseas travel stipends, according to a less-noticed piece in The Wall Street Journal on Tuesday.
The Journal reported that Reps. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., Alcee Hastings, D-Fla., G.K. Butterfield, D-N.C., Robert Aderholt, R-Ala., and Solomon Ortiz, D-Texas, as well as former Rep. Mark Souder, R-Ind., had been contacted by ethics investigators regarding use of travel stipends. (Souder was dropped from the investigation after he retired.)
The lawmakers had either bought souvenirs, paid for drinks and gifts for others, or kept money left over from their travels. The Journal pointed out that there's "no system for lawmakers to return excess travel funds when they return to the U.S.," so investigators may end up simply concluding that the protocol was unclear.
It's clearer now. The rules changed in May, when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi stated that lawmakers on official business would have to fly coach unless the trip was more than 14 hours, wouldn't be able to use their travel stipends on gifts or souvenirs, and would be required to return all excess money to the Treasury.