Independent ethics office already investigating Thompson

The independent ethics office created in 2008 to help lawmakers police themselves has referred five cases of alleged misconduct to the ethics committee for further review and one for dismissal.

The actions took place between late April and June of this year, the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) disclosed in its second quarterly report. The new ethics entity is required to issue quarterly reports about how many cases it’s working on, but it cannot make the subject matter of those inquiries public.

The ethics committee, however, confirmed Monday that the five cases stemmed from two trips five Congressional Black Caucus members took to the Caribbean in November 2007 and 2008 that may have violated House travel rules barring corporate sponsorship. The members who attended those trips are Democratic Reps. Carolyn Kilpatrick (Mich.), Donald Payne (N.J.), Bennie Thompson (Miss.) and Charles Rangel (N.Y.) and Del. Donna Christensen of the Virgin Islands.

The panel has since launched a formal investigation into the trip.

“While the Committee was previously investigating the Carib News trip, the OCE did refer five related matters to the Committee,” Blake Chisam, staff director for the ethics committee, said in a statement. “The Committee’s statement forming an investigative subcommittee in the Carib News matter makes reference to the five Members that were the subject of the OCE referrals.”

The Hill reported that the OCE interviewed several CBC staffers about the trip. The OCE apparently found enough evidence to forward the matter to the full ethics committee for further review.

The OCE also started 14 other preliminary reviews into charges of ethics violations, terminated four cases and advanced six cases to a “Phase II” review. In addition, the office extended the “Phase II” review in four cases.

The Hill 7/13/9