Ethics panel reveals Berkley probe

The House Ethics Committee revealed Friday it was weighing opening an investigation into Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-Nev.).

The top Republican and Democrat on the panel released joint statements extending its look at Berkley until July 9. They note the extension does not indicate a violation had taken place.

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For Berkley, it is the first public acknowledgment that the committee was looking into investigating the seven-term congresswoman and Senate candidate. The committee did not disclose the nature of the allegation, but the complaint was referred to the panel by the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE). In September, the Nevada Republican Party filed a complaint with OCE alleging she used her office to benefit her family financially.

The GOP's complaint was prompted by a New York Times report that showed how Berkley advocated in the House for dialysis treatment programs and kidney centers, sponsoring at least five bills to increase kidney-care reimbursement rates. Berkley's husband, Larry Lehrner, is a physician who runs dialysis centers in Nevada.

Berkley is running in a close race against incumbent Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.), who is seeking his first full term after being appointed to the open seat in 2011.

"As the committee reviews this complaint, they will determine that Congresswoman Shelley Berkley’s only concern is for the well being of Nevada’s patients," said Jessica Mackler, Berkley's campaign manager. "That’s why she fought against out-of-state Washington bureaucrats from restricting patients’ access to care and why she joined fellow Reps. Jon Porter and Dean Heller to stop Nevada’s only kidney transplant program from being shut down, which would have denied life saving treatment to hundreds of Nevadans.”

The National Republican Senatorial Committee jumped on the news of the Berkley complaint.

"The news that the House Ethics Committee is extending their investigation of embattled Congresswoman Shelley Berkley is not surprising given what appears to be a pattern of ethical questions that have surrounded her activities over the years," NRSC spokesman Brian Walsh said in a statement. "The people of Nevada deserve someone in the United States Senate who they can trust to work on their behalf and not someone — like Shelley Berkley — who puts her own financial and political interests first."

— This story was updated at 2:34 p.m.