Category Archives: Ethics

Nevada Senate: FEC Dismisses Ensign Complaint

WASHINGTON - JUNE 10:  Sen. John Ensign (R-NV) listens as Billy Nungesser, president of Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana, and David Camardelle, mayor of Grand Isle, Louisiana testify before the State, Local, and Private Sector Preparedness and Integration Subcommittee during a hearing on 'Deep Impact: Assessing the Effects of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill on States, Localities and the Private Sector' on June 10, 2010 in Washington, DC. Nungesser and Camardelle joined other local officials in explaining to the Senate committee the effect the oil spill is having in their communities and the difficulty they are having in working through federal and private sector bureaucracies to get issues resolved.

The Federal Election Commission “has dismissed a complaint against Sen. John Ensign over a $96,000 payment his parents made to his former mistress and her family,” the AP reports.

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a campaign finance watchdog group, announced Friday that the commission had dismissed its complaint against Ensign, his parents, his campaign and his political action committee over the money paid to Cynthia Hampton, with whom the Nevada Republican has admitted having an affair. CREW contended it amounted to an illegal political donation to Ensign.

The FEC said in a written statement explaining its reasons that Ensign’s parents considered the April 2008 payment to Hampton, her husband and their children a gift given out of concern for longtime family friends. Hampton is a former Ensign campaign aide, and her husband Doug Hampton used to be an Ensign congressional staffer.

The commission’s action “doesn’t mean the government is finished investigating John Ensign.”

He has been under criminal investigation by the Justice Department’s public integrity section and the Senate ethics committee. The inquiries revolve around whether Ensign helped Doug Hampton violate federal lobbying restrictions.

(credit image – daylife/getty)

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Watchdog Group Seeks Vitter Ethics Inquiry

U.S. Representative David Vitter of Louisiana speaks at the 2010 Southern Republican Leadership Conference in New Orleans, Louisiana April 10, 2010. As many as 3,000 party activists are to attend the four-day conference, the most prominent gathering of Republicans outside of their presidential nominating conventions.

A watchdog group “wants a Senate committee to investigate allegations that Sen. David Vitter lied about duties of an aide who resigned after he was charged with attacking a girlfriend,” the AP reports.

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington also complains that the aide twice traveled to Louisiana at taxpayer expense when he faced court dates in a drunk driving case.

The former aide, Brent Furer, resigned in June. Furer was arrested and accused of a knife attack on a girlfriend in 2008, and he later pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges.

Vitter’s campaign accuses CREW of "coordinating" an attack on Vitter with his Democratic opponent. However, the group has a history of complaints against members of both parties, including prominent Louisiana Democrats.

(credit image – daylife/reuters)

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Congressional Whistleblower Legislation Remains Stalled

Whistleblowers have “long been revered on Capitol Hill, but when it comes to protecting congressional employees who tell on lawmakers, Congress is dragging its feet,” POLITICO reports.

The proposed Congressional Whistleblower Protection Act that would prevent members of Congress from retaliating against employees who report corruption, waste and other violations has yet to budge from its long hold in a Senate committee, even as Congress continues to be rocked with allegations of corruption and other ethics lapses.

A recent report “by the congressional Office of Compliance found that the Congress has failed to apply a series of workplace regulations to its own employees, including safety regulations and a law that gives veterans a leg up when applying for government jobs.”

But legislation offered by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), which would extend to the legislative branch the same rights and retaliation protections enjoyed by government employees, has still received almost no attention.

“Compliance isn’t just something to check off a list once, but it should be a daily effort to be sure the Senate is abiding by the law,” Grassley said in a statement to POLITCO. “As part of Congress keeping up with the law, I hope the leadership will move on legislation I introduced last year with Sen. (Claire) McCaskill to amend the Congressional Accountability Act and extend whistleblower protections to legislative branch employees.”

Senator Joe Lieberman (ID-CT), Chairman of the “Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, has called the legislation noteworthy.”

But he has not moved on it.

An aide said that while Lieberman “supports the intent” of Grassley’s bill, his priority has been advancing legislation by Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii), which would strengthen the current whistleblower protection law covering federal employees, but not the legislative branch.

(credit images – daylife/getty/associated press)

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Schumer, Gillibrand Still Attending Rangel Birthday Gala

Democratic leaders “and major party donors plan to hold a lavish 80th birthday gala for Charles Rangel at The Plaza Hotel in Manhattan next month, despite 13 ethics charges pending against the veteran lawmaker,” The Hill reports.

Lobbyists and other party donors received invitations this week to join Sens. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and New York Gov. David Paterson at one of New York’s finest hotels to celebrate Rangel’s birthday.

Gubernatorial candidate Andrew Cuomo and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg are also listed as featured guests, according to an invitation viewed by The Hill.

The 2010 “Rangel Birthday Gala is planned for August 11th despite the fact that Rangel’s actual birthday is June 11th.”

(credit image – observer/getty)

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Filed under Ethics, House of Representatives

Senate Approves Resolution to Allow Ensign Aide Testimony

The Senate on Thursday night “quietly approved a resolution that will allow Sen. John Ensign’s aides to testify to a federal grand jury investigating the aftermath of the Nevada Republican’s extramarital affair with a former campaign aide,” POLITICO reports.

By voice vote, the Senate approved the resolution that would authorize employees of the Senate to give testimony to a grand jury in Washington.

Senate aides said that the resolution was necessary because Senate rules would prohibit employees from testifying outside of the halls of Congress. The rule was put in place as a way to uphold the Senate’s constitutional right under the Speech or Debate clause, which prohibits members of the House and Senate from being prosecuted for work related to their legislative duties.

The approval came swiftly during the Senate’s daily wrap-up remarks.

The Senate’s approval “of the resolution is the latest sign that the investigation into the senator’s affair – and whether he illegally attempted to cover it up and flouted federal law by helping the lobbying career of his former mistress’ husband – continues to move swiftly.”

It’s S. Res. 601.

(credit image – daylife/associated press)

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