Congressional ethics office referred seven cases to House panel in 2011

The Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) referred seven cases of possible ethics violations to the House Ethics Committee last year with recommendations for further review, according to its fourth-quarter report released on Tuesday.

About one-third of the 22 total cases that OCE reviewed in the first half of the 112th Congress were referred to the secretive ethics panel. Of the 22 matters investigated by the OCE last year, five were terminated after a preliminary review, 14 received a second phase of review and two were referred to the Ethics Committee with recommendations to dismiss the matter.

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Most of the seven cases OCE referred to the Ethics Committee last year are publicly known.

The OCE recommended the committee look into allegations that Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-Fla.) sexually harassed a female staffer. Earlier this month the committee moved to continue investigating the matter but declined to empanel an investigative subcommittee.

A case against Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-Fla.) was also forwarded to the Ethics panel by OCE last year. The committee is set to decide whether to formally investigate allegations that Buchanan illegally reimbursed campaign donors by next month.

Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) was referred by OCE to the Ethics Committee for a possible rules violation of allegedly accepting illegal donations to a defense fund. The committee decided that Young did not break the House’s rules.

The OCE also recommended that the Ethics panel probe allegations that Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.) accepted illegal loans that violated House rules. The Ethics Committee dismissed one case against Meeks but is continuing to investigate a second loan.

The OCE is an advisory board made up of former lawmakers, House officers and lawyers that investigates allegations of misconduct and refers matters to the Ethics Committee with recommendations on how it should proceed.