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article imageHouse Ethics Committee: Breach of confidential information

By Kay Mathews     Oct 29, 2009 in Politics
A confidential House ethics committee report was made available to the Washington Post. The report discusses investigations of lawmakers and aides. The Committee on Standards of Official Conduct released a statement regarding the breach of information.
According to a story just released by the Washington Post, a confidential House ethics committee report prepared in July was "disclosed on a publicly accessible computer network" and was "made available to The Washington Post by a source familiar with such networks."
The report [PDF] indicates "that House ethics investigators have scrutinized the activities of more than 30 lawmakers and several aides in inquiries about issues including defense lobbying and corporate influence peddling" according to the Washington Post.
The committee chairwoman, Zoe Lofgren (D-California), interrupted House votes shortly after 6 p.m. Thursday to alert lawmakers of the breach. Lofgren, reports the Washington Post, "cautioned that some of the panel's activities are preliminary and not a conclusive sign of inappropriate behavior. 'No inference should be made as to any member.'"
Moreover, the committee's ranking Republican, Rep. Jo Bonner (R-Alabama), was quoted as saying, "No inference should be made as to any member."
The U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, commonly known as the Ethics committee, released a statement on Thursday, Oct. 29, in response to the information breach.
The statement said in part:
Our initial review suggests that this unlawful access to confidential information involved the use of peer-to-peer file sharing software on the personal computer of a junior staffer, who is no longer employed by the Committee, while working from home.
At any one time, the Committee has dozens of matters regarding Members, Officers, and employees before it, including both investigations and requests for advice regarding house rules, financial disclosure, and travel, among other issues. No inference to any misconduct can be made from the fact that a matter is simply before the Committee. For these reasons, the range of matters before the Committee is, and should remain, confidential.
The Committee will have no further comment on the matter at this time.
The report notes that ethics investigators have examined the activities of more than 30 lawmakers and several aides. Inquiries range from defense lobbying to corporate influence peddling.
The Washington Post reports that the 22-page "Committee on Standards Weekly Summary Report" "gives brief summaries of ethics panel investigations of the conduct of 19 lawmakers and a few staff members."
Moreover the report outlines the "work of the new Office of Congressional Ethics, a quasi-independent body that initiates investigations and provides recommendations to the ethics committee. The document indicated that the office was reviewing the activities of 14 other lawmakers. Some were under review by both ethics bodies."
The document disclosed that the Justice Department asked the ethics committee to suspend a probe of Rep. Alan Mollohan (D-West Virginia) because Justice is already investigating a complaint from a conservative group alleging that Mollohan did not fully reveal his real estate holdings.
The document also discussed the investigation of Rep. Charles Rangel's (D-New York) personal finances.
Representatives of the Office of Congressional Ethics and the Justice Department declined comment on the breach of confidential information.
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