The House ethics committee has announced it is extending a review of two Congressmen that were among the subjects of "The Murtha Method," an investigation published last September by the Center for Public Integrity.
The House panel’s extended inquiry is focusing on Democrat Pete Visclosky of Indiana and Republican Todd Tiahrt of Kansas, and the earmarks they made on behalf of clients of the now-defunct lobbying firm, the PMA Group. Both Visclosky and Tiahrt are members of the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, whose practices were the subject of the Center’s probe. The Center’s story showed that 12 of the subcommittee’s 16 members (including Visclosky and Tiahrt) were involved in circles of relationships fraught with potential conflicts of interest, involving former congressional staffers-turned-lobbyists, earmarks and campaign cash. Among those involved was the subcommittee’s chairman, Pennsylvania Democrat John Murtha.
The ethics panel, also known as the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, announced last Friday that it would extend its review of the lawmakers by 45 days, with a decision by March 2 on whether to begin a formal investigation. In December, another body, the Office of Congressional Ethics, recommended to the ethics committee that it take a hard look at these two lawmakers. PMA has been at the center of numerous congressional and federal law enforcement probes into earmarks and influence on Capitol Hill.
“I’m relieved this matter is in the jurisdiction of the House Committee on Standards, which now allows me to be fully exonerated by March 2. In November, I asked for this matter to be transferred to the Standards Committee because I respect their ability to professionally review my defense appropriations vetting process,” Tiahrt said in a statement. “We have every confidence that as the Committee examines the facts, it will not only confirm the integrity of our rigorous procedures, but will find our vetting standards to be a professional model for other offices to adopt.”
Visclosky’s office, in a separate statement said the Indiana lawmaker “intends to cooperate fully and believes that the committee will conclude that he engaged in no wrongdoing whatsoever.”
OCE has recommended that the House ethics committee drop inquiries into several other members of the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee — including Murtha, Jim Moran (D-Va.), Norm Dicks (D-Wash.) and Bill Young (R-Fla.), all of whom were mentioned in the Center’s examination.