WASHINGTON — The Office of Congressional Ethics has referred its investigation into Rep. Michele Bachmann’s presidential campaign to the House Ethics Committee.
The OCE announced Tuesday that it had referred all seven of its investigations last quarter to the ethics panel for review, citing “substantial reason to believe a violation may have occurred.” The office didn’t detail exactly what its investigations centered on, or even the names of the lawmakers under investigation.
In a statement, Bachmann lawyer William McGinley confirmed her case was among those referred to the Ethics Committee, though OCE has recommended dismissing at least some of the allegations it had been investigating, he said.
“We are grateful that this matter is finally in the hands of the fair-minded and capable professionals at the House Committee on Ethics who we are confident will dismiss all allegations in this matter, including those that the OCE referred for dismissal — despite the false representation to the contrary in OCE’s quarterly ‘report,’” he said in a statement. “Under the House Rules, a referral by the OCE to the Committee on Ethics does not mean that a violation has occurred or that the Committee on Ethics has rendered any judgment in the matter. Any inference to the contrary is false.”
According to the Star Tribune’s Kevin Diaz, the panel was especially interested in the book tour associated with Bachmann’s memoir, “Core of Conviction.”
Sources who have been interviewed by the OCE have told the Star Tribune that investigators focused on Bachmann’s 2011 book tour, which spanned from Minnesota and Iowa to the East Coast. Federal election and House ethics rules generally forbid candidates from using campaign funds or resources to sell or promote their own books, which are considered personal business activities.
Unlike potential campaign finance violations, which could involve top officials in Bachmann’s campaign, the book tour allegations focus on Bachmann’s personal conduct in selling her book.
Among those questioned in the probe was former campaign staffer Barb Heki, an Iowa woman who recently settled a lawsuit against Bachmann over allegations that her campaign misappropriated an e-mail list of Iowa home-school families. She’s one of several paid Bachmann campaign staffers who reportedly took part in at least one book tour event.
Beyond the book tour, the Federal Elections Commission and the FBI have launched probes into the spending habits of Bachmann’s leadership PAC.
OCE generally refers a little more than half of its inquiries to the Ethics Committee, which then decides whether they warrant further investigation. There are a couple different ways for the public to eventually know the substance of OCE’s investigation: Within 90 days of receiving the OCE file, the Ethics Committee will either release the report, keep it secret while impanelling a special subcommittee to investigate it further (after which the report becomes public), or vote to dismiss the matter, in which case, OCE’s findings would stay private.
OCE made the referrals on June 23, and the ranking members of the committee are likely to announce later this month that they’ll delay deciding the matter until this fall.
Since 2008, according to Roll Call, only two OCE-referred cases have ever come up for a disciplinary hearing before the ethics panel.
Devin Henry can be reached at email@example.com.