GOP lawmaker rips ethics office after case dismissed

A Republican congressman slammed Congress's independent ethics office after it dismissed its case against him and four other lawmakers, saying it sullied his reputation.

Rep. Frank Lucas (Okla.) said in a statement Tuesday that the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) damaged his "political capital" and said that the group should keep its business more concealed.

ADVERTISEMENT
"Hours were spent producing documents and preparing for interviews,” Lucas said, according to The Oklahoman. "However, the real cost has been to my personal political capital.”

The OCE had investigated eight lawmakers for fundraisers they held and whether or not money raised was connected to their votes on the Wall Street reform bill, which passed in July.

The cases against Reps. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas), Chris Lee (R-N.Y.), Earl Pomeroy (D-N.D.), Mel Watt (D-N.C.) and Lucas were dismissed, while the cases against Reps. John Campbell (R-Calif.), Tom Price (R-Ga.) and Joseph Crowley (D-N.Y.) were referred to the House ethics panel for further examination, according to their offices.

Lucas's statement underscores the growing political pressure on the OCE as Congress prepares to take up this investigation, as well as the ethics trials of Reps. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) and Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) 

The OCE was founded in 2008 as part of the Democrats' effort to reform the ethics process in Congress. The office is an independent watchdog that reviews cases and has the power to recommend investigations to the ethics committee, which is staffed by members of Congress.

The OCE's investigations are largely confidential, which had prompted criticism from those who say it needs a more open process.

Members of the Congressional Black Caucus have also criticized the OCE, and some of its members support legislation sponsored by Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio) that would take away significant powers from the office. 

Lucas did not specifically endorse those sentiments in his statement, but he did say that the OCE should use greater discretion and provide better guidance to members.

"I believe that nothing is gained by punishing members in the press before you review our office polices and documents,” he wrote, adding that "members will need more specific guidance if this general fundraising activity now creates the appearance of impropriety based upon association between floor votes and committee assignments."

Watt, who was also cleared, offered a more measured statement though he said that the investigation has hurt is reputation.

"While the decision of the Office of Congressional Ethics cannot restore my reputation, I am thankful that the review has been completed and that it concluded that I did nothing improper or unethical," he said. "I am thankful that, with this disposition by the Office of Congressional Ethics, I can again turn my full attention to serving the residents of the 12th District of North Carolina."