U.S. Attorney declined to prosecute Bloomberg reporter, closed case

The U.S. Attorney’s Office declined to prosecute a reporter on charges that she removed documents from the Education and the Workforce Committee, according to a letter from the United States Capitol Police to the former chairman of the panel.

In the letter, dated Jan. 13, Capitol Police Chief Terrance Gainer informed then-Chairman John Boehner (R-Ohio) that the U.S. attorney’s office’s Public Corruption Section had reviewed the case and decided that it should be closed. The Capitol Police had referred the case to the U.S. attorney last November.

“On Jan. 4, 2006, [Assistant U.S. Attorney John] Roth, advised that the U.S. Attorney’s Office has declined to prosecute the charges presented and the case will be closed,” Gainer said in the letter.

A representative from the U.S. Attorney’s Office did not return a call for comment.

The Capitol Police had agreed to investigate the incident after Boehner and ranking member Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.) requested they look into a “potential criminal incident” in which Bloomberg News reporter Jay Newton-Small allegedly removed a confidential document from the minority offices.

Miller alleged that Newton-Small — who was not named in the letter — had taken the document without permission, a charge representatives from Bloomberg vehemently denied.

“Bloomberg News, after being contacted by the minority and majority, returned the document to the committee on Nov. 2 and promised not to publish the confidential information contained in it,” Miller said in a November press release.

At the time, Boehner called the matter “extremely troubling” and said it warranted a “full investigation.” Boehner has since become House majority leader and has left the Education and the Workforce Committee; Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon (R-Calif.) is the new chairman.

“I’m pleased the Capitol Police has agreed to conduct a thorough investigation because it’s important to understand the basic facts of how this security breach occurred,” Boehner said in November.

Bloomberg’s executive editor, Al Hunt, did not return several requests for comment but had stated in previous media reports that Bloomberg stood behind Newton-Small and maintained that a committee staffer had given her the document.

A committee spokesperson confirmed that panel officials had been told that the U.S. attorney closed the case. The spokesperson said any additional questions about the matter should be directed to the Capitol Police.

Capitol Police spokeswoman Sgt. Kimberly Schneider confirmed that the case was closed, citing the U.S. attorney’s decision.

In a Nov. 10 joint letter to Gainer, Boehner and Miller wrote that on Oct. 26 a member of the minority staff called the Capitol Police to report that a document containing information received from the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. had been removed from the committee offices. They described the documents as containing “pension-related information about the plan assets and liabilities of certain corporations and their subsidiaries.”

The agency is prohibited by law from releasing the pension-plan information contained in the document obtained by Bloomberg. Both Boehner and Miller had to abide by strict confidentiality agreements in order to view the information.

The letter noted that Bloomberg immediately returned the documents through its counsel and did not publish an article based on the materials that were acquired.

A spokesman for Boehner could not be reached for comment.

In March and again in June 2005, Miller called for a public release of “critical financial information on the true health of America’s most underfunded private pension plans.”

Miller had pushed for such information to be public in the past but was only able to secure the private information for committee review. A committee spokesperson declined to comment on the Miller’s actions.