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Ethics office clears Stupak
June 24, 2010 - Jim Anderson
The U.S. House of Representatives Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) has cleared U.S. Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Menominee, in a complaint filed by the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.
The allegations centered on whether Stupak and eight other members of Congress paid below market rent at the C Street House in violation of congressional gift rules.
Stupak has issued a press release.
“The Office of Congressional Ethics has dismissed these baseless claims and closed its investigation,” Stupak said. “I no longer live at the C Street residence, but while there I rented a room at fair market value. I have never received any subsidies toward my rent or living expenses. My living arrangements have always been, and continue to be in full compliance with the rules and regulations of the U.S. House of Representatives.”
Stupak said the OCE notified him in a recent letter that it was terminating its preliminary review of the complaint. The preliminary review found, “there was no probable cause to believe the alleged violation occurred.”
The Office of Congressional Ethics is an independent body made up of eight private citizens who are not members of Congress and not employed by the federal government. The OCE was created by the House in 2007 to vet complaints and refer cases to the ethics committee.
In its complaint, CREW cited press accounts indicating that members of Congress paid $950 per month in return for lodging and housekeeping services at C Street.
At about the same time, Clergy VOICE, a group of clergy from various religious traditions, called for an IRS investigation into the lodging at C Street. According to the group’s survey, efficiency or one-bedroom apartments typically go for at least $1,700 per month in Washington.
The C Street House is owned by a center that has connections to a Christian organization known as the Fellowship, or the Family. Although politically well-connected, the Fellowship shuns publicity and its members reportedly share a vow of silence.
Apart from denying the allegations, Stupak has been largely silent about the living arrangements at C Street. But Rep. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., who was also cleared in the investigation, has said that residents were required to share bathrooms.
In a recent story in Roll Call, ethics lawyer C. Simon Davidson said the basic question is whether members were paying a fair price for their lodging.
“The difficulty is that it is not clear that there is really a fair market value for this type of thing,” he said. “It is such an unusual living arrangement,” more akin to a rooming house than a normal hotel or apartment building.
A copy of the letter to Stupak from OCE can be found at www.house.gov/stupak/oceletter.pdf
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