By Rebecca Henely
U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-Jackson Heights), one of three congressmen whose fund-raising practices were under review by the House Ethics Committee, was cleared last week by the panel.
In August, the Office of Congressional Ethics — an independent body — asked the House Ethics Committee to investigate Crowley as well as Reps. John Campbell (R-Calif.) and Tom Price (R-Ga.) for the fund-raising activities they engaged in prior to the Dec. 11 vote on a bill to overhaul Wall Street. The measure would become the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, which was aimed at streamlining the financial regulation system, created the Consumer Financial Protection Agency and developed a process to prevent large bailouts of corporations.
The committee reviewed Crowley’s fund-raising for three events: a Dec. 7, 2009, coffee/breakfast; a Dec. 10, 2009, holiday cocktail reception with U.S. Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.); and a Dec. 10, 2009, dinner, according to the more than 600-page report issued by the committee.
The Office of Congressional Ethics had alleged attendees at these fund-raisers were all lobbyists on the Dodd-Frank Bill and had access to one-on-one meetings with Crowley.
“There is a substantial reason to believe that Rep. Crowley solicited or accepted contributions in a manner which gave the appearance that special treatment or access was provided to donors or that contributions were linked to an official act,” the office said in its referral of his case for further review.
Yet in the committee’s report, released Jan. 26, the committee said Crowley and the other representatives did not engage in any wrongdoing.
“An independent investigation of the relevant facts and surrounding circumstances in all three matters demonstrated that each member’s fund-raising activities raised no appearances of impropriety,” the report said. “Nor did they violate any law or other applicable standards of conduct in connection with their fundraising activities.”
Crowley’s office released a statement in favor of the report’s findings.
“Last week’s decision confirms that Congressman Crowley has always complied with the letter and spirit of all rules regarding fund-raising and standards of conduct,” the office said. “We’re pleased this matter is now closed.”
The report said there was no impropriety, as the amendments added to the bill had no relation and were separate from the fund-raising activities, and the votes the representatives made on the bill were consistent with their positions on financial reform. Crowley voted for the bill, whereas Campbell and Price voted against it.
Crowley’s Dec. 7 breakfast was held so he could meet the new president-elect of the Association for Advanced Life Underwriting, a life insurance lobby group, and meet others from that group and the insurance company New York Life, the report said. The events on Dec. 10 were planned before the House vote on the bill was scheduled, had a diverse guest list as opposed to only those who would have a stake in the House bill and Crowley’s staff at the event did not engage in any discussion of the House bill with guests.
The report characterized these events as standard fund-raisers.
Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 718-260-4564.