Ten government watchdog groups have called on House Ethics Committee Chair Charlie Dent (R-Pa.) and Ranking Member Linda Sanchez (D-Calif.) to release the Office of Congressional Ethics’ findings regarding all-expense-paid trips to Azerbaijan taken by 10 members of Congress in 2013, according to a Wednesday press release. Earlier this month, the Ethics Committee dropped its own probe into the trips, cleared the lawmakers of wrongdoing and did not release the OCE’s findings.
“We are concerned about the committee’s unprecedented decision not to release the OCE’s findings in circumstances where the Members under investigation remain” in Congress, the groups’ letter reads. The Campaign Legal Center, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, Common Cause, Demand Progress, Democracy 21, Thomas Mann, the National Legal and Policy Center, Norm Ornstein, Public Citizen, and James Thurber all signed the letter.
“This decision is especially concerning because the Committee itself played a decisive role in approving the Members’ travel to Azerbaijan,” the authors wrote. The groups also raised questions about whether Dent should have recused himself from the matter after receiving contributions from individuals associated with the nonprofit network under investigation in May. OpenSecrets Blog broke the story of the contributions to Dent.
The Ethics Committee must approve a lawmaker’s travel beforehand when a nonprofit group offers to foot the bill. Each member who went to Azerbaijan in May 2013 — Reps. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas), Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.), Yvette Clarke (D-N.Y.), Ted Poe (R-Texas), Jim Bridenstine (R-Okla.), Leonard Lance (R-N.J.),…