WASHINGTON - The House Ethics Committee announced Monday that it had formally opened an investigation into the conduct of Rep. Trey Radel, the Florida Republican who pleaded guilty last month to drug possession after being caught in an undercover sting.
The 10-member panel voted unanimously to establish an investigative subcommittee that will determine whether Radel's actions violated congressional rules. It could recommend sanctions, including a formal censure or even expulsion.
Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.) will lead the investigation of the first-term lawmaker.
Radel, 37, came to the attention of the FBI and Drug Enforcement Administration this fall during an investigation of cocaine trafficking in the Washington area, according to prosecutors. As part of an undercover "buy and bust" sting, he agreed to buy about 3.5 grams of cocaine from an officer at a restaurant in the Dupont Circle area.
After pleading guilty to the misdemeanor charge of drug possession, Radel was sentenced to a year of probation.
The congressman acknowledged that a struggle with alcoholism "led to an extremely irresponsible choice" and has taken a leave of absence while he undergoes counseling.
Prominent Florida Republicans and the state's Democratic Party have called on Radel to resign.