Following a finding by investigators that Rep. Tom Petri, R-Wisc., may have violated House rules, the Committee on Ethics decided to continue its review of charges that Petri improperly acted on behalf of companies in which he had a financial interest.
The investigation by the Office of Congressional Ethics found reason to believe that Petri violated ethics rules.
Between 2008 and 2013, Petri and his office took actions on behalf of Oshkosh Corp., the Manitowoc Co. and the Plum Creek Timber Co. while he or his wife owned stock in those companies, the investigation found.
“The Board recommends that the Committee on Ethics further review the allegation, as there is substantial reason to believe that Representative Petri improperly performed official acts,” the OCE said.
Petri sought Ethics Committee advice on many but not all occasions, and in one instance may have supplied incomplete information, the panel said.
In response, the House Committee on Ethics said it would extend its review to gather more information, adding that this does not indicate that Petri actually committed any violations.
Petri, who himself asked for the OCE investigation, has challenged the findings, arguing that he and his staff sought and followed Ethics Committee guidance when he acted on behalf of Oshkosh and Manitowoc, both of which are large Wisconsin businesses.
Petri said he has cooperated extensively with the investigation and the record makes it clear that he did not violate House rules.
“The record reveals a conscientious, committed and responsible public servant,” said Petri’s attorney Robert Kelner in an August letter to the Ethics Committee asking that the matter be dismissed.
“If there is a lack of clarity under the existing rules, the proper response is to issue new rules and guidelines.”
In a statement Petri said he was “deeply disappointed” that the Ethics Committee had not dismissed the OCE report.
“The OCE’s finding turn common sense upside down, attempt to rewrite specific House rules and ignore the well-documented record of my office’s interactions with the House Ethics Committee,” he said.
The OCE is an independent, non-partisan board of private citizens charged with investigating allegations of misconduct by members of Congress and their staffs.
Petri, 74, has served in the House since 1979 and is not running for reelection this year.
He chairs the Subcommittee on Highways and Transit in the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and over the years has been a prominent decision maker in trucking policy matters.