Radel resignation likely ends ethics investigation

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) called on Monday for the House Ethics Committee not to drop its investigation of Rep. Trey Radel (R-Fla.), despite his resignation from Congress.

“Rep. Radel’s resignation is welcome, though overdue. The timing, however, is certainly suspicious. Why now? It’s not as if the Republican leadership just learned of the cocaine bust over the weekend. It seems possible his resignation is intended to stymie the ethics investigation that might have elicited damaging information about other members of Congress and congressional staff,” CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan said in a statement.

Radel announced Monday he was resigning from Congress that evening, just weeks after he returned to Capitol Hill from rehab.

He had received treatment for alcohol abuse in Florida, after he pleaded guilty to possession of cocaine in November. He was charged with the misdemeanor after he was caught buying the drug by undercover agents in a sting operation in Dupont Circle that month. 

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The House Ethics Committee subsequently opened an investigation into Radel’s involvement with sales of cocaine.

While the committee doesn’t publicly comment on open investigations, situations similar to Radel’s suggest the congressional panel would likely dismiss their inquiry of him.

Former disgraced Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.) resigned in November 2012, at which point the ethics investigation into him stopped because the committee lost their jurisdiction, a committee activity report indicated. 

Jackson was sent to prison for a 30-month sentence in October, after he was convicted of corruption and misusing campaign funds. 

During the summer of 2011, former Rep. David Wu (D-Ore.) resigned from the House amid an ethics investigation, after a teenager accused the congressman of initiating unwanted sexual contact with her. His resignation ended the ethics probe that had just started. 

In March 2010, former Rep. Nathan Deal (R-Ga.) resigned from Congress during his gubernatorial run. The House Ethics Committee had been investigating him for improperly using his office to persuade officials in Georgia to continue a vehicle inspection program that helped his family’s business. His resignation ended the committee’s investigation, but the Office of Congressional Ethics released a separate report a week later showing the congressman violated House rules.

Other scenarios, however, suggest investigations of former members could still continue even though the committee loses that power.

The committee had been investigating former Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.) for two years, after revelations surfaced about his affair with the wife of one of his former aides. He resigned from Congress in 2011, the day before he was scheduled to be questioned by ethics investigators. Less than a month later, the committee decided to release its investigation report, which found he broke laws and Senate rules.

CREW thinks there’s more behind Radel’s resignation and wants questions answered. The group wants to know, who introduced Radel to his drug dealer? Did Radel share his cocaine with anyone? 

“The congressman’s resignation should in no way derail the ethics investigation stemming from this incident,” Sloan said.