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Archive for Friday, June 18, 2010

Moran cleared in ethics probe of housing

June 18, 2010

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— Ethics investigators said Thursday that they found no probable cause to believe that U.S. Rep. Jerry Moran had received an improper gift of below-market rent on space at a Washington house.

The Kansas Republican and four other congressmen were named in a complaint filed with the House in April by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, or CREW. The group also filed a similar complaint against several senators, including Kansas Republican Sam Brownback.

CREW said by paying rent far below market rates at the home near the Capitol, the lawmakers had their housing subsidized, violating congressional gift rules. The home’s corporate owner is affiliated with a Christian group known as the Fellowship.

But on Thursday, Moran received a letter from the House’s Office of Congressional Ethics saying it had ended its inquiry. Moran’s staff made the letter public.

“Based on all the information known during the preliminary review, the OCE Board found that there was not probable cause to believe the alleged violation occurred,” Leo Wise, the office’s staff director and chief counsel, wrote in the letter.

Both Moran’s and Brownback’s critics have made an issue of their ties to the C Street SE home. Brownback is running for governor of Kansas, and Moran is running for Brownback’s Senate seat.

Moran had said there was no impropriety, and complaints about the lodging arrangements are part of an effort “to exclude matters of faith by public servants.”

“I believed this allegation was baseless from the start and I’m glad to have that confirmed,” Moran said Thursday evening in a statement. “I never want to do anything that is unethical and embarrass Kansans.”

CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan said Moran and the other lawmakers are clearly receiving a benefit other members of Congress don’t. But she acknowledged it probably was difficult for investigators to pin down a figure.

“It is my guess that it was hard for the Office of Congressional Ethics to value the housing,” she said in an interview. “We wouldn’t have filed a complaint if we didn’t think it was legitimate.”

In its complaints to both the House and Senate, CREW cited a magazine report that the C Street home charges members of Congress $950 a month, comparing it with a hotel or bed and breakfast. CREW’s complaint suggested that people would pay at least $1,700 a month for such accommodations and possibly as much as $6,000.

Moran later told the Hays Daily News that he pays $600 per month for a room and shared bathroom — but bought his own bed and doesn’t shower there.

Brownback’s office has said he lived at the C Street home less than a year before purchasing a condominium in 2003, and a spokesman told The Topeka Capital-Journal that CREW’s complaint was baseless. There’s been no official word on whether the Senate Ethics Committee is investigating.

The other senators named by CREW in the same complaint were also conservative Republicans: Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, Jim DeMint of South Carolina and John Ensign of Nevada.

The other House members named in the CREW complaint in that chamber were Republican Zach Wamp of Tennessee and Democrats Mike Doyle of Pennsylvania, Heath Shuler of North Carolina, and Bart Stupak of Michigan.

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