Rep. John Campbell, other lawmakers face ethics inquiry

A congressional ethics watchdog has asked for a further probe of campaign fundraising appeals to Wall Street firms by Rep. John Campbell (R-Irvine) and two other House members before lawmakers voted on financial regulatory overhaul legislation.

Campbell confirmed the Office of Congressional Ethics’ referral to the House Ethics Committee but denied wrongdoing.

“I am perplexed by OCE’s decision, as they have presented no evidence that would suggest wrongdoing,” he said in a statement Tuesday.

The action, two months before the November midterm election, comes as fellow Southern Californian Rep. Maxine Waters (D- Los Angeles) and Rep. Charles B. Rangel (D-N.Y.) face rare ethics trials. Both have denied wrongdoing.

The Office of Congressional Ethics also asked the committee to further investigate Reps. Joseph Crowley (D-N.Y.) and Tom Price (R-Ga.).

Campbell, Crowley and Price all held fundraisers in December, around the time of crucial House votes on the most sweeping overhaul of the nation’s financial regulatory system since the Great Depression. President Obama signed it into law in July.

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.

House Ethics Committee staff is expected to review the referrals and make a recommendation to the committee, which is evenly divided between Democratic and Republican lawmakers, on whether further investigation is merited.

The ethics office recommended no further investigation of five other lawmakers in the same probe, the Associated Press reported: Democratic Reps. Earl Pomeroy of North Dakota and Melvin Watt of North Carolina, and Republicans Jeb Hensarling of Texas, Christopher Lee of New York and Frank D. Lucas of Oklahoma.

Officials at the Office of Congressional Ethics and the House Ethics Committee declined to comment. But a letter sent by the OCE to one congressional office noted that there could be an ethics violation if a lawmaker “solicited or accepted contributions in a manner which gave the appearance that special treatment or access was being provided to donors or the appearance that contributions were linked to an official act.”

“How the OCE arrived at their recommendation is truly a mystery,” Price said in a statement. “There being no evidence of any wrongdoing or any inconsistency in my policy position, one can only guess as to the motive behind their decision or even why they chose to initiate a review in the first place.”

Crowley could not be reached.

Campbell said in his statement: “As one of Congress’ most outspoken critics of the earmark system and the waste and corruption it engenders, I have worked to make Congress more transparent and accountable to the American taxpayer. Any suggestion to the contrary is baseless and unfounded. I look forward to a favorable resolution of this matter.”