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New York's Owens part of congressional investigation

Thursday, February 07, 2013 - Updated: 5:29 PM

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The House Ethics Committee said Wednesday it will continue an investigation of Illinois Republican Rep. Aaron Schock over allegations he solicited donations of more than $5,000 per donor to a super political action committee. The committee also said it's continuing a probe of whether a trip New York Democrat Bill Owens took to Taiwan was arranged by lobbyists for the country's government.

Both cases had been referred to the House committee by the Office of Congressional Ethics, a separate, outside ethics office. The House committee announced its decision to continue looking into each case on Wednesday, while releasing OCE's report on both cases.

In a statement, the ethics committee said that in both cases merely "conducting further review ... does not itself indicate that any violation has occurred, or reflect any judgment on behalf of the committee." The committee also said it would refrain from further comment pending completion of initial reviews.

Both Schock and Owens said they expect to be exonerated by the House committee.

Schock's case involves an allegation he asked House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., to contribute $25,000 from his leadership PAC to a super PAC that backed Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., in a House primary against Rep. Don Manzullo. Kinzinger won the March 2012 primary. Redistricting following the 2010 census put the two congressmen in the same and the primary.

According to the OCE report, the Super PAC backing Kinzinger, the Campaign for Primary Accountability, received a minimum of $115,000 that came from "efforts of Rep. Schock and his campaign committee." The report says that Cantor told investigators that Schock had asked him if he would give the $25,000 donation to back Kinzinger. Cantor said he then gave money from his committee to the super PAC backing Kinziger in the primary.

Cantor's office would not comment on the investigation, but said he fully cooperated the OCE report as a witness.

A spokesman for Schock, Steve Dutton, said the congressman had done nothing wrong and believes the committee will vindicate him.

It's a violation of federal law and House rules and standards of conduct for a member of Congress to solicit donations exceeding $5,000 per donor for a super political action committee.

The case involving Owens relates to a December 2011 trip he and his wife took to Taiwan. Owens and his wife were invited by the Chinese Culture University of Taiwan. But the trip may have been arranged by lobbyists for the country. Lawmakers are prohibited from taking trips that are paid for by lobbyists.

Owens said he expected the investigation would clear him of wrongdoing.

"This is the next step in the process and I expect that ultimately it will result in an affirmation of my position that the trip was undertaken in the quest for jobs for my constituents and was done with every intention to comply with all applicable rules," he said. "I hold myself and my office to the highest of ethical standards. Which is why, in abundance of caution, I have already personally reimbursed the sponsor of the trip for the cost."

     

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