Two Dems cleared of ethics charges

The House Ethics Committee on Thursday cleared Democratic Reps. Gregory Meeks (N.Y.) and Tim Ryan (Ohio) of charges that they violated the chamber’s ethics rules.

Ryan was arrested in Virginia earlier this year for public intoxication, but a local court dismissed the charges this month. Ryan has maintained his innocence.

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“After completing its own review of the allegations, the committee believes that the handling of this matter by local authorities is sufficient, given the facts of the matter,” the Ethics panel said on Thursday. 

Meeks was cleared last summer of charges that he accepted an improper loan in 2010, but at the same time, the secretive Ethics Committee announced it was launching a separate preliminary investigation into an allegation that Meeks failed to properly disclose a $40,000 loan he received in 2007 from New York businessman Ed Ahmad. 

Ahmad’s lawyer argues that Meeks never had a legally binding document enforcing an interest rate or repayment schedule of the loan.

Ahmad has pleaded guilty in a federal criminal case and refused the Ethics Committee’s request for an interview, vowing to invoke his Fifth Amendment rights if the panel subpoenaed him. The committee determined that there is no evidence to suggest that the loan was an improper gift.

Meeks holds that he has a written record of the loan’s repayment schedule and interest rate. And though he can’t find the document, he says he repaid the loan in 2010 at an interest rate of 12.5 percent.

“Considering the highly compromised credibility of Mr. Ahmad, unless he could provide some documentary evidence indicating that the payment to Rep. Meeks was not a loan — which his attorney has stated he cannot do — it would be unreasonable for the committee to conclude, on the basis of his testimony alone, that Rep. Meeks had been untruthful to the committee in his sworn statement that such a document had accompanied the loan,” the committee wrote in its dismissal of the charge against Meeks. 

“Therefore, the committee has decided to close its investigation regarding the allegation that Rep. Meeks received an improper gift from Mr. Ahmad.”

The committee determined that Meeks should have disclosed the loan but that he did not knowingly omit it from his records. Meeks has also amended his financial records to accurately reflect the loan, and the committee concluded that the loan was not an impermissible gift.