Ethics Committee acknowledges Bachmann probe, will decide next step in September

WASHINGTON — The House Ethics Committee announced Friday that it has received a report on Rep. Michele Bachmann and will decide by September whether to investigate it further.

This is a very routine part of the process: After the Office of Congressional Ethics conducts an investigation into a member (which we knew about in March) and after it forwards a report on that member to the Ethics Committee (which we knew about last week), the top Republican and Democrat on the committee have 45 days to either open an investigation, drop the case or delay their decision for another 45 days, which is what happened on Friday.

The deferral is very common, but the announcement of it inherently acknowledges that the Ethics Committee has an ethics report on a specific member, which is why the committee’s statement made such a splash today. But, as the committee noted in its press release, “the mere fact of a referral or an extension, and the mandatory disclosure of such an extension and the name of the subject of the matter, does not itself indicate that any violation has occurred, or reflect any judgment on behalf of the Committee.”

The OCE recommended the Ethics Committee look into potential violations by Bachmann’s presidential campaign, as Bachmann’s lawyers acknowledged last week. The FBI and the Federal Elections Commission are also investigating any number of allegations leveled against the campaign by former staffers, including those relating to potentially improper payments to employees and whether campaign staffers took part in a book tour for her autobiography.

Bachmann has said she and her campaign did nothing wrong. In May, she announced she won’t seek re-election next fall.

The Ethics Committee has a Sept. 11 deadline to decide whether to pursue the case. 

Devin Henry can be reached at dhenry@minnpost.com.

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