Ethics extends Hastings, Young probes

The House Ethics Committee is extending a probe into possible ethics violations by Reps. Alcee Hastings (D-Fla.) and Don YoungDonald (Don) Edwin YoungOvernight Energy: New EPA head looks to reassure staff | New round of ex-Pruitt staffers leave | House votes to overhaul fisheries law | Trump rips Germany for pipeline deal with Russia House votes to overhaul fishery management law Bipartisan solution is hooked on facts, not fiction MORE (R-Alaska).

The announcement on Monday was the first public acknowledgement by the Ethics panel that it is conducting preliminary investigations of the two lawmakers.

The charges against Hastings and Young were recommended to the committee last month by the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) and don’t indicate any judgment of guilt by the panel. The secretive committee plans to announce whether it will launch formal investigations of the two lawmakers by Jan. 11.

The statement from the Ethics Committee didn’t indicate what specific matters it is probing with Hastings or Young.

But a spokesman for Young said he is cooperating with the committee’s probe, which he said centers on whether donations made this year to the Don Young Legal Expense Fund exceeded the contribution limit.

The spokesman said Young asked the Ethics panel to look into the matter when he first heard of the allegations earlier this year.

The charges come in the wake of a lengthy probe by the Justice Department (DOJ) into whether Young accepted gifts from the oil industry in exchange for political favors. Young has pointed to the DOJ’s refusal to prosecute those allegations as proof of his innocence.

“Considering the hell Congressman Young has gone through over the past five years, he would not knowingly do anything that would violate House rules,” said Luke Miller, the press secretary for Young.

“Congressman Young will continue to work with the Ethics Committee as they resolve this matter, and he is prepared to return any contribution that is deemed in excess of the limit.”

Hastings, meanwhile, is in the midst of a lawsuit brought against him by a staff member who claims she was sexually harassed and discriminated against. Hastings has maintained his innocence and says the claims are baseless.

The conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch is helping the staffer bring the lawsuit against Hastings and confirmed in June that the OCE was looking into whether the lawmaker violated the chamber’s ethics rules.

This story was originally posted at 12:12 p.m. and last updated at 7:50 p.m.