House Ethics leak shows dozens of lawmakers under scrutiny

posted at 1:36 pm on October 30, 2009 by Ed Morrissey

A badly-secured file from the House Ethics Committee shows dozens of lawmakers under scrutiny for potential corruption charges — and one in particular who may face a less-friendly inquiry from the Justice Department.  Federal investigators asked the committee to suspend a years-long probe into the activities of Rep. Alan Mollohan (D-WV), indicating that criminal charges may result.  The Washington Post reports the memo in two stories today:

House ethics investigators have been scrutinizing the activities of more than 30 lawmakers and several aides in inquiries about issues including defense lobbying and corporate influence peddling, according to a confidential House ethics committee report prepared in July.

The report appears to have been inadvertently placed on a publicly accessible computer network, and it was provided to The Washington Post by a source not connected to the congressional investigations. The committee said Thursday night that the document was released by a low-level staffer.

The ethics committee is one of the most secretive panels in Congress, and its members and staff members sign oaths not to disclose any activities related to its past or present investigations. Watchdog groups have accused the committee of not actively pursuing inquiries; the newly disclosed document indicates the panel is conducting far more investigations than it had revealed.

The reason for the secrecy is simple; the information could be damaging to politicians whose corruption or unethical practices have not yet been proven.  In that sense, the revelation of these probes is at least nominally unfair, since the allegations behind them may not have any evidence to support the charges.  The Ethics Committee has acted incompetently in protecting that information.

On the other hand, none of these names are a surprise, as Michelle notes:

The investigations by two separate ethics offices include an examination of the chairman of the Appropriations subcommittee on defense, John P. Murtha (D-Pa.), as well as others who helped steer federal funds to clients of the PMA Group. The lawmakers received campaign contributions from the firm and its clients. A document obtained by The Washington Post shows that the subcommittee members under scrutiny also include Peter J. Visclosky (D-Ind.), James P. Moran Jr. (D-Va.), Norm Dicks (D-Wash.), Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio) , C.W. Bill Young (R-Fla.) and Todd Tiahrt (R-Kan.).

The document also indicates that the House ethics committee’s staff recently interviewed the staff of Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) about his allegation that a PMA lobbyist threatened him in 2007 when he resisted steering federal funds to a PMA client. The lobbyist told a Nunes staffer that if the lawmaker didn’t help, the defense contractor would move out of Nunes’s district and take dozens of jobs with him.

And two of our favorites are among them:

The House ethics committee announced Thursday it is investigating two California Democratic lawmakers, but its embarrassed leaders then had to explain that other members—named in a confidential memo that a hacker posted online—may have committed no wrongdoing.

The committee said it is investigating whether Rep. Maxine Waters used her influence to help a bank in which her husband owned stock, and whether the couple benefited as a result. Separately, the panel is investigating whether Rep. Laura Richardson failed to disclose required information on her financial disclosure forms and received special treatment from a lender.

I find this less than compelling.  The HEC has been a toothless entity under the direction of both parties, mostly existing as a facade for the appearance of clean government.  They rarely act unless all other options are excluded, and usually hope that the Justice Department relieves them of their burden to police themselves.  We’d like to think that either Democratic or Republican leadership really concerns itself with draining the swamp, but mostly they’re interested in using corruption as a bat at elections rather than cleaning it up — because the only way to really eliminate it would be to curtail the federal spending that creates it.

That’s why this is probably the only real news in the revelation:

The Justice Department has told the ethics panel to suspend a probe of Rep. Alan B. Mollohan (D-W.Va.), whose personal finances federal investigators began reviewing in early 2006 after complaints from a conservative group that he was not fully revealing his real estate holdings. There has been no public action on that inquiry for several years. But the department’s request in early July to the committee suggests that the case continues to draw the attention of federal investigators, who often ask that the House and Senate ethics panels refrain from taking action against members whom the department is already investigating.

Mollohan said that he was not aware of any ongoing interest by the Justice Department in his case and that he and his attorneys have not heard from federal investigators. “The answer is no,” he said.

If the DoJ requested that the HEC stop its investigation, it must be onto something rather tasty.  Whether or not that results in charges remains to be seen, especially from this DoJ, but the news of such a probe is very interesting indeed.


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She is very good in attracting attention and her goal is to turn the thread into a discussion about her.
NoDonkey on October 30, 2009 at 2:59 PM

Precisely. She is very adept at the art of threadjacking.

kingsjester on October 30, 2009 at 3:04 PM

Precisely. She is very adept at the art of threadjacking.

kingsjester on October 30, 2009 at 3:04 PM

Best to just ignore her then. I usually do.

OmahaConservative on October 30, 2009 at 3:06 PM

Maxine Waters could shoot someone dead in front of the Capitol and not get prosecuted.
NoDonkey on October 30, 2009 at 2:16 PM

Sadly I believe that to be true. A (made up) mitigating factor would be promoted by her caucus which would immediately find Olbermann and Madcow in support followed quickly by the NYT and the White House with a blame the victim defense.

FireBlogger on October 30, 2009 at 3:07 PM

She is very good in attracting attention and her goal is to turn the thread into a discussion about her.

NoDonkey on October 30, 2009 at 2:59 PM

Just like her hero in the White House.

Amazing! Maybe AnninCa is really Barry playing on his blackberry.

Knucklehead on October 30, 2009 at 3:08 PM

Best to just ignore her then. I usually do.

OmahaConservative on October 30, 2009 at 3:06 PM

I have just decided that she adds nothing to the discussion and ignore her posts.

thomasaur on October 30, 2009 at 3:09 PM

HornetSting appears!
Anninca disappears!

donh525 on October 30, 2009 at 3:10 PM

Get her out of Congress and on the view, where nuts like her belong.

Hening on October 30, 2009 at 3:10 PM

FireBlogger on October 30, 2009 at 3:07 PM

All she would need to do is to get loud and to start shrieking about handcuffs on a black woman and everyone would back down.

Just like McKinney made everyone back down.

Besides, she would literally bite Holder’s head off if he tried anything.

NoDonkey on October 30, 2009 at 3:13 PM

Another AnninCa threadjacking in progress.

kingsjester on October 30, 2009 at 2:34 PM

Absolutely correct. I’m not taking the fishbait.

Key West Reader on October 30, 2009 at 3:15 PM

HornetSting appears!
Anninca disappears!

donh525 on October 30, 2009 at 3:10 PM

Oh, cut it out and stop being rediculous.

Key West Reader on October 30, 2009 at 3:16 PM

Oh, cut it out and stop being rediculous.

Key West Reader on October 30, 2009 at 3:16 PM

You misunderstood. Hornets sting. Get it?

donh525 on October 30, 2009 at 3:21 PM

NoDonkey on October 30, 2009 at 2:33 PM

Why would I make this up? There were AutoCAD files (as in blueprints) being shared openly and in their file names they clearly described buildings at Fort Hood. DPW and Engineering will not let any civilian without a clearance access those blueprints, but that’s beyond the point. That same week, on two separate occasions I detected a packet sniffer and port scanner actively running on the network… someone was actively searching that network for open ports. I’m fully aware of the requirements for contractors, that doesn’t mean that every idiot out there is going to comply. –Especially when hotels have different gateways for initially opening a connection to the internet… I can’t tell you how many times my VPN connection has failed and I’ve had to tweak it myself to get it working. I doubt that there were many in my company that could have done the same without a call to IT. Denying that contractors often ignore security protocols is naive. It happens. Say Joe Contractor only has his VPN connected while he’s sending files back to the office. But now that he’s done, he wants to watch Hulu and the VPN is too slow for the video… guess who’s not using a VPN anymore. It happens. Believe it.

Medicated on October 30, 2009 at 3:22 PM

The. Most. Ethical. Congress. Evah!

lionheart on October 30, 2009 at 3:35 PM

SKYFOX on October 30, 2009 at 2:39 PM
another job for Patrick Fitzgerald?

cmsinaz on October 30, 2009

I would hire Patrick Fitzgerald. How is he at fixing carnival rides? Ticket taker at a freak show? Road kill collector? Sewer caulk technician?

SKYFOX on October 30, 2009 at 3:39 PM

I just listened to “Carol Leonnig” (“Washington Post National Reporter”) in her exchange on Fox with Shep Smith, and she mumbled, fumbled the “explanation” in response to Smith asking her how the Post obtained this information (“the leaked” information).

Leonnig appeared to not even know what “peer to peer software” was and mumbled “peer, uhh, peer sharing, uhh…” and then went on with referring to her “very reliable source”…

I don’t know, but it sounds again like WAPO is being used TO “leak” information that allows a clearing-up prior or resolution that Ethics Committee wants to avoid having to confront.

Like sweeping the sand up from under a rug before announcing the room needs to be swept.

Lourdes on October 30, 2009 at 3:41 PM

Devin Nunes is a stand up guy and i’m glad this is coming to light.

The PAC threatened him that if he didn’t appropriate earmarks to them that they would have their clients leave the area and thus many jobs would leave. Nunes basically told them to take a hike.

The companies are still here and no jobs were lost by the way.

Nunes has also been a big fighter in the water issue down here in the central valley.

He could become a big player on the national stage in the future of the conservative movement.

RedbonePro on October 30, 2009 at 3:42 PM

So you have Maxine who is under investigation for being in cahoots with Bawney Fwank to funnel money to a ‘black’ bank that didn’t need it under the stimulus. Maxine’s husband sits on board of said bank. Maxine owns shares in said bank. Odds of any investigation into a ‘black’ woman rep and a ‘gay’ co conspirator rep? None. Maxine will just holler racist and all charges go away like magic.

TEXASLEGAL on October 30, 2009 at 3:42 PM


Troubled Waters
– another Democrat banking queen scandal

OmahaConservative on October 30, 2009 at 3:42 PM

This is also interestingly associated in theme with Sunstein’s demands for “net neutrality” and to otherwise edit the internet via his alleged big nincompoop brains.

I realize this is a stretch but in my experience with the political, particularly since Obama and Admin. have set upon us, they fling these tangential if not diversionary issues out there for appearances — to create a false front, “can’t be possible, too tenuous, nah, just your imagination” while it’s actually like shaking pepper over eggs: the tiny bits fall in separate areas but are the same.

Lourdes on October 30, 2009 at 3:44 PM

I have no doubt that the peer to peer part is total nonsense. Three of the ten reps on the committee, including the chair, are co-sponsors of H.R. 1319, the Informed P2P User Act.

Medicated on October 30, 2009 at 3:44 PM

HornetSting appears!
Anninca disappears!

donh525 on October 30, 2009 at 3:10 PM
Oh, cut it out and stop being rediculous.

Key West Reader on October 30, 2009 at 3:16 PM

It is true. I am Anninca. How do I prepare? I remove my brain.

HornetSting on October 30, 2009 at 3:45 PM

What it sounds like — at least this official excuse as WAPO’s reporter mumbled it (also as WAPO’s printed it) — is that an employee took work home and had ADOBE Acrobat files on their hard drive, then someone else (“peer to peer”) at another location accessed her Adobe files and grabbed a copy (downloaded it) of an Adobe file.

The excuse/story (not sure what’s sincere in that regard) — so the Ethics Committee says — is that the employee wasn’t aware of the possibility that Adobe files could be accessed by another computer from her own (the employee’s), but that the Ethics Committee fired her anyway (reason?).

I refer to “her” as the employee responsible, haplessly or not, because the WAPO reporter appearing with Shep Smith today on FOX let slip a “she…” in reference to the employee before catching herself and correcting that to an impersonal “the employee…”

Anyway, weird story. The WAPO reporter with Smith on Fox did not appear too credible, she seemed to be having problems being straightforward, and lacked believability, though I have no idea why or about what, specifically.

She just didn’t appear with a plausible explanation.

Lourdes on October 30, 2009 at 3:50 PM

I have no doubt that the peer to peer part is total nonsense. Three of the ten reps on the committee, including the chair, are co-sponsors of H.R. 1319, the Informed P2P User Act.

Medicated on October 30, 2009 at 3:44 PM

I agree it sounds like an excuse — which they blame a now-terminated employee for, but still a flimsy story.

I also doubt — quite — the WAPO’s story as explained by this WAPO reporter appearing today on FOX with Shep Smith questioning her.

Smith asked her (“Carol Leonnig” – ”Washington Post National Reporter”) how WAPO “obtained this” report/information…

Leonnig’s mumbling, somewhat stoned appearance was weird, to say the least, had a “glassy-eyed-I dunno-dunno-well-maybe-ok-it-was-this, uhh” aspect to it.

She SAYS they “obtained it from a very reliable source who grabbed a copy” but then referred to a VERY reliable source in addition to the first one without being too clear about the full exchange history.

It just sounds like the WAPO was handed a copy — so who cares if two sources were used to hide a trail — and then the whole crew (Ethics and WAPO and Admin.) just make up a story about a hapless employee ‘working from home’ who didn’t know how peer-to-peer software functions. Oh, but was using it.

Lourdes on October 30, 2009 at 3:55 PM

This type of “leak” story just really is gossip.

It’s not a legitimate story.

AnninCA on October 30, 2009 at 2:07 PM

Spoken like a true liberal…

right2bright on October 30, 2009 at 3:58 PM

Wake me when corrupt-o-crat Charlie Rangel (D-NY) is in prison…

locomotivebreath1901 on October 30, 2009 at 4:17 PM

What’s sad is that these things are always along party lines.

I remember hearing on the news months ago about one police officer arresting another who was drunk on duty behind the wheel.

Covering for one of your own isn’t obligatory in this country when they do something egregious.

But, then there’s Congress…

Dr. ZhivBlago on October 30, 2009 at 4:26 PM

This type of “leak” story just really is gossip.

It’s not a legitimate story.

AnninCA on October 30, 2009 at 2:07 PM

So the Washington Post has been taken in again, eh?

unclesmrgol on October 30, 2009 at 4:52 PM

We’d like to think that either Democratic or Republican leadership really concerns itself with draining the swamp, but mostly they’re interested in using corruption

If Gov Palin runs for POTUS in 2012, I’d like to see her include a plank on going after corruption in Congress. Congressional approval ratings are so low that it would surely resonate with most Americans. Get real law and order leaders in at FBI and DOJ and turn them loose. And those who whine about separation of power, tell ‘em to go fish. If congress critters are doing the crime, they can do the time, in a DIFFERENT gov institution!

Brian Paasch on October 30, 2009 at 4:54 PM

Medicated on October 30, 2009 at 3:22 PM

Amazing. Are you saying that a classified network not connected to the Internet has computers on it which move back and forth between it and the Internet?

If that network accesses the Internet via VPN it’s already compromised. The two networks are physically connected, and the rules about air guarding have been violated.

Hopefully, nothing more than FOUO stuff is floating around.

unclesmrgol on October 30, 2009 at 5:03 PM

Fact,the black members in this have nothing to fear.Who is really going to come after them since the magic words give them a free ride.They get to milk that until hell freezes over.Anyone else in this deal is not sweating it either.

docflash on October 30, 2009 at 5:13 PM

forget the substance of these individual charges. Doesn’t this simple assertion tell use all we need to know:

The ethics committee is one of the most secretive panels in Congress

Resolute on October 30, 2009 at 6:26 PM

Where do I get a Maxine Waters halloween mask?

Cybergeezer on October 30, 2009 at 7:27 PM

What are the odds of actual action?

That depends on which letter comes after their name.

If its an “R” they’re screwed.

Dave R. on October 30, 2009 at 3:01 PM

So Dave does that mean your screwed? That is an R after your name, isn’t it? sarc.. Just a joke since we’re all gonna be abused by the time the Dams are done with us. Or vice versa.

huckelberry on October 30, 2009 at 7:32 PM

Ed asked What are the odds of actual action?

Slim, None, and “What are you lookin’ at punk?”

Blacksmith8 on October 30, 2009 at 7:36 PM

Gerrymandering keeps these corrupt jerks in power.

NTWR on October 30, 2009 at 2:21 PM

Which is why the WH wants a heavier hand in the 2010 census.
I believe that Rahm Emanuel is behind this mischief.

onlineanalyst on October 30, 2009 at 8:14 PM

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