Two lawmakers faulted, two cleared in House Ethics probes

The House Ethics Committee delivered decisions in the cases of four lawmakers Thursday afternoon.

Reps. Judy Chu (D-Calif.) and Phil GingreyPhil GingreyBeating the drum on healthcare Former GOP chairman joins K Street Former Rep. Gingrey lands on K Street MORE (R-Ga.) received public shaming in the form of letters of reproval from House Ethics Committee Chairman Mike Conaway (R-Texas) and ranking member Linda Sánchez (D-Calif.).

Meanwhile, the panel concluded that Reps. Tom PetriTom PetriCombine healthcare and tax reform to bring out the best in both Overnight Tech: Internet lobby criticizes GOP privacy bill | Apple sees security requests for user data skyrocket | Airbnb beefs up lobbying Dozens of former GOP lawmakers announce opposition to Trump MORE (R-Wis.) and Alcee Hastings (D-Fla.) did not commit ethics violations.

Gingrey, who lost a GOP Senate primary, and Petri, who is retiring, are both leaving Congress at the end of this year.

Chu

The House Ethics Committee voted unanimously to issue a letter of reproval to Chu for interfering with the panel's investigation of the allegation that she was requiring office staffers to perform campaign-related work.

In the letter, the Ethics panel said Chu "improperly" communicated with two of her staff members regarding another aide's concerns that sparked the initial issue.

"The Committee did find that you interfered with the Committee's investigation, and that your actions contributed to the length of this investigation," Conaway and Sánchez wrote.

"Now that this letter has issued and the Committee has publicly noted its reproval of your conduct, the Committee has determined that this matter is closed," they concluded.

Gingrey

In the case of Gingrey, the Ethics Committee said it the congressman took official action on behalf of the Bank of Ellijay, where he had “substantial financial interests."

Specifically, Gingrey arranged for bank officials from outside his district to meet with Treasury officials and the ranking member and top staffers at the Financial Services Committee regarding the bank’s application for bailout funds from the Troubled Asset Relief Program.

The panel voted unanimously to issue a public letter of reproval that stated his actions did not reflect well on the House.

Petri

The committee also said it would take no further action regarding allegations that Petri had tried to help local companies in which he owned stock, including OshKosh Corp.

The Board of the Office of Congressional Ethics said earlier this year it believed Petri had violated the law. But the full Ethics Committee rejected that conclusion, saying it would be “inequitable” to continue to review the matter.

The committee said Petri repeatedly sought guidance from committee staffers and that he consistently tried to follow that advice.

Hastings

In Hastings's case, the House Ethics Committee concluded there wasn't enough evidence to prove that he sexually harassed a female staff member on the U.S. Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the Helsinki Commission. The Office of Congressional Ethics originally referred the case to the House Ethics Committee with the same finding.

However, the House Ethics Committee did find that Hastings engaged in inappropriate behavior. Hastings acknowledged that he had hugged the complainant "on a number of occasions" and made unprofessional comments.

"Similarly, Representative Hastings admitted to making two comments in the presence of Complainant: one about not being able to sleep after sex, and another about female Members of Congress wearing the same underwear all day," the panel's report says.

The House Ethics Committee considers the matter closed because there isn't enough evidence to prove Hastings engaged in sexual harassment or violated House rules.

"Nevertheless, the Committee finds it concerning that in the year 2014 it has to remind a Member that such comments show poor judgment," the report says.