Politics & Government

Ethics investigation over, Dicks says

WASHINGTON - The Office of Congressional Ethics has ended its investigation into the relationship between Rep. Norm Dicks and an influential defense lobbying firm and recommended no further action, the Belfair Democrat said Friday.

The House Ethics Committee could still investigate, but Dicks said he considered the matter over.

“I have received notice from the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) that it found no basis for further action and thus I consider the OCE matter closed,” Dicks said in a statement.

Both the committee and the OCE do not comment on any cases that may or not be before them. But a confidential committee memo inadvertently released to the public in late October showed Dicks was one of seven congressmen being investigated for their dealings with PMA Group.

The investigation focused on whether the congressmen had accepted campaign contributions from PMA’s political action committee, clients and employees in exchange for earmarks in congressional spending bills or other official actions. The lobbying firm, which has closed, is reportedly under investigation by the Justice Department for possible criminal violations.

Dicks has steadfastly maintained he has done nothing wrong.

The congressman was informally notified Dec. 2 that the OCE was recommending against action, and he was waiting for it to make a formal announcement, said a Dicks spokesman, George Behan. But Behan said that in the past several days it became apparent the OCE was not going to make any announcement.

Behan said the six-member, independent board that oversees the OCE unanimously recommended the investigation be dropped. The board includes former members of Congress, a federal judge and others.

Dicks previously confirmed that he secured $27 million in federal spending for four PMA clients over the past three years.

The contracts involved Navy projects. Though their headquarters are elsewhere, the four PMA clients have offices in the Bremerton area, which is in Dicks’ congressional district. Dicks has said the contracts involved legitimate projects that the Navy had approved.

During the same time period, Dicks received $133,000 in campaign contributions from the lobbying firm’s PAC, employees and clients, according to federal campaign reports reviewed by CQ Moneyline Analysis.

The OCE was recently created, and the PMA case may be among the first it has investigated. Although the OCE did not recommend further action, the ethics committee could move forward with its own investigation.

The committee has up to 90 days to review the recommendations from the OCE. It may ultimately have to release the OCE’s findings.

Dicks ranks No. 2 in seniority among Democrats on the House defense appropriations subcommittee. The founder of PMA, Paul Magliocchetti, was a top aide on the subcommittee.

The chairman of the subcommittee, Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., had also been part of the investigation. But the newspaper Roll Call reported Friday that the OCE had also recommended that the investigation into Murtha end.