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OCE Investigation Probes Eight Congressmen’s Financial Services Fundraising Efforts

At what point does a campaign contribution cross over from Washington status quo to illegal quid pro quo? That’s what the Office of Congressional Ethics has been attempting to probe in its ongoing investigation into eight House members who solicited and received large campaign contributions from the financial services industry immediately before and even during the debate on the financial regulation bill adopted by the House last December:

For example, on Dec. 10, one of the lawmakers under investigation, Representative Joseph Crowley, a New York Democrat who sits on the Ways and Means Committee, left the Capitol during the House debate to attend a fund-raising event for him hosted by a lobbyist at her nearby Capitol Hill town house that featured financial firms, along with other donors. After collecting thousands of dollars in checks, Mr. Crowley returned to the floor of the House just in time to vote against a series of amendments that would have imposed tougher restrictions on Wall Street.

That same day, Representative Tom Price, a Georgia Republican on the Financial Services Committee, scheduled what he called a “Financial Services Luncheon” at the Capitol Hill Club, as part of a fund-raising push that netted him nearly $23,000 in contributions from the industry in a two-month period around the vote.

The Office of Congressional Ethics is an independent office, led by a former federal prosecutor, that has been riling members on the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct with its aggressive pursuit of what it considers unethical conduct. The New York Times notes that given the two groups’ differences, it’s unlikely that the committee will punish any of the accused members even if the investigation ends up recommending action.

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