WASHINGTON – House investigators have recommended that three lawmakers be further investigated to determine whether political contributions were improperly linked to votes on the huge financial overhaul bill.
The independent House Office of Congressional Ethics recommended that the member-run House ethics committee pursue potential rules violations by Republicans John Campbell of California and Tom Price of Georgia and Democrat Joseph Crowley of New York.
The ethics office recommended no further investigation of five other lawmakers in the same probe: Democratic Reps. Earl Pomeroy of North Dakota and Mel Watt of North Carolina, and Republicans Jeb Hensarling of Texas, Chris Lee of New York, and Frank Lucas of Oklahoma.
All offices of the lawmakers had received letters from the OCE by Tuesday and made the conclusions public.
President Barack Obama signed the financial overhaul bill into law July 21. It aims to restrain Wall Street excesses with the most sweeping overhaul of financial rules since the Great Depression, clamping down on lending practices and expanding consumer protections to address failures that precipitated the 2008 meltdown that knocked the economy to its knees.
The Democrats — Crowley, Pomeroy and Watt — voted for the final bill. The Republicans — Campbell, Price, Hensarling, Lee and Lucas — voted against it.
Campbell said he was "perplexed by OCE's decision, as they have presented no evidence that would suggest wrongdoing. As one of Congress's most outspoken critics of the earmark system and the waste and corruption it engenders, I have worked to make Congress more transparent and accountable to the American taxpayer. Any suggestion to the contrary is baseless and unfounded."
Price said it was "truly a mystery" that his case was referred for further investigation, "there being no evidence of any wrongdoing or any inconsistency in my policy position."
"As a member of Congress, I have always complied with the letter and the spirit of the law," Price added. "To suggest otherwise is unfounded and untrue. In addition, my voting record and opposition to a culture of taxpayer-funded bailouts has been and always will be unshakable."
Crowley's office said in a statement that he "has always complied with the letter and spirit of all rules regarding fundraising and standards of conduct."
All three lawmakers referred for further investigation had fundraisers last December, around the time of crucial House votes.
Price had two fundraisers, including a breakfast on Dec. 2 and a luncheon Dec. 10 billed as a financial services event. A special guest was Rep. Spencer Bachus of Alabama, the ranking Republican on the House Financial Services Committee.
Crowley had a cocktail reception Dec. 10.
Campbell had fundraisers Dec. 8 and Dec. 9.
Campbell and Price consistently opposed the regulation legislation. Crowley, after attending his fundraiser, returned to the House and voted against Democratic amendments aimed at toughening some financial regulations.
In each case he joined more than 100 Democrats, including fellow New Yorkers, to vote against the proposed changes.
Associated Press writer Jim Kuhnhenn contributed to this report.
(This version CORRECTS quotes from Campbell, Price.)