WASHINGTON — The House Ethics Committee determined Wednesday that Rep. Austin J. Murphy (D-Pa.) violated House rules by diverting congressional property to his former law firm and twice allowing someone else to cast votes for him.
Murphy, who made the findings public, was also found to have placed a "no-show" worker on the payroll of a subcommittee he headed. The worker was said to have earned $49,500 despite rarely showing up for work.
"It is clear that the committee had one agenda from the start, to simply make an example of someone," said Murphy, who is in his sixth term. "To reach its goal, the committee had to sustain a 'ghost voting' charge, because, quite frankly, the other allegations were too weak to bring a reprimand to the House floor."
One Count Dismissed
The committee, known officially as the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, dismissed one of three "ghost voting" counts against Murphy, but no reason was given.
If the full House agrees with the committee's finding, Murphy could become the first member disciplined since George Hansen, an Idaho Republican who was reprimanded in July, 1984, for filing false financial disclosure forms.
The panel's finding was issued after six days of closed testimony and three days of deliberations. It would ordinarily now reconvene to determine what penalty, if any, to recommend to the full House. But Murphy said he would waive the right to a second hearing and take the matter directly to the floor.
Panel Holds Closed Session
Committee members were meeting in closed session and could not be reached for comment.
According to the ethics panel, Murphy permitted an unidentified colleague to cast electronic votes in his name in 1978 while he was away from the capital.
In addition, the committee accused Murphy of diverting photocopy equipment, long-distance telephone service, furniture and other congressional resources to his former western Pennsylvania law firm. His office is in a building adjoining the law firm.