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House ethics panel clears three lawmakers in financial inquiry

The House Ethics Committee ends its investigation of Republican Reps. John Campbell of Irvine and Tom Price of Georgia and Democratic Rep. Joseph Crowley of New York. The inquiry examined fundraising appeals the lawmakers made while considering financial regulatory legislation.

January 26, 2011|By Richard Simon, Los Angeles Times

Reporting from Washington — The House Ethics Committee on Wednesday dropped its investigation of Rep. John Campbell (R-Irvine) and two other congressmen over their campaign fundraising appeals to Wall Street firms while the lawmakers considered financial regulatory overhaul legislation.

The panel concluded that the lawmakers' positions on the legislation "were not connected to fundraising activities," noting that Campbell and Reps. Joseph Crowley (D-N.Y.) and Tom Price (R-Ga.) held "consistent and well-established" views on it "long before" the fundraising events were held.

Campbell said in a statement that he had "consistently maintained that there has been no wrongdoing." A Price spokesman said the congressman has "always complied with both the letter and spirit of the law" and was pleased that the matter was "now closed."

Last fall, the independent Office of Congressional Ethics asked the committee to begin looking into the lawmakers' fundraising, saying there was "substantial reason to believe" that each of them had "solicited or accepted contributions in a manner which gave the appearance that … the contributions were linked to an official act."

The three lawmakers held fundraisers in December 2009, around the time of crucial votes on the financial regulatory overhaul. President Obama signed the measure into law last summer. Both Republicans opposed the legislation, which strengthened oversight of the financial industry and consumer protections. Crowley, the Democrat, opposed some amendments that would have toughened the measure but backed the final bill.

An Ethics Committee report released Wednesday by its Republican chairman, Rep. Jo Bonner of Alabama, and top Democrat, Rep. Zoe Lofgren of San Jose, said the fundraising events, planned months in advance, were brief, "without any substantive legislative discussion" about the regulatory overhaul bill.

"The general characteristics of each member's fundraising events exhibited no appearances of special access for attendees to the members in their official capacity," according to the committee report. "Rather, they were no different than any routine fundraising event held by any other House member."

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