Nevada Rep. Shelley Berkley under ethics review


The House Ethics Committee is conducting a review involving Rep. Shelley Berkley of Nevada, posing a potential challenge for the Las Vegas Democrat whose closely watched bid for the Senate could determine which party controls the chamber.

The Ethics Committee acknowledged its work in a brief statement Friday and plans to make its findings public by July 9. The issue was referred to the committee in February by the Office of Congressional Ethics. The committee did not disclose details and said the probe does not indicate that an ethics violation has occurred.

The committee also said it was extending its inquiry into Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-Fla.). The Congressional Ethics Office found that for several years he had failed to report company positions he held and unearned income on financial disclosure forms as required. Buchanan’s spokesman said he was confident the committee would conclude there was no wrongdoing.

Berkley came under scrutiny last fall after the New York Times reported that her husband’s medical practice benefited from her efforts to block federal regulators from shutting down a kidney transplant program at University Medical Center in Nevada.

The transplant program is the only one in the state, but its patient success record was poor. Berkley’s husband, Dr. Larry Lehrne, is a partner in a medical practice that provides kidney care services to the hospital. The contract was expanded to $738,000 after Berkley’s intervention, the New York Times reported.

“As the committee reviews this complaint, they will determine that Congresswoman Shelley Berkley’s only concern is for the well-being of Nevada’s patients,” Berkley campaign manager Jessica Mackler said. The Nevada Republican Party filed the ethics complaint.

Berkley is running in the Democratic primary to challenge incumbent Republican Sen. Dean Heller. Heller, previously a member of the House, was appointed to replace GOP Sen. John Ensign, who resigned last year after being embroiled in his own ethics controversy.