Three Ethics Cases Referred to House Panel

An outside House ethics watchdog organization has suggested that the full House Ethics Committee probe Reps. Joseph Crowley (D-NY), John Campbell (R-CA) and Tom Price (R-GA) to determine if there was a link between their fundraisers and how they voted on a Wall Street reform bill.

The Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) is a special panel that can study of ethics matters, but can only refer them to the House Ethics Committee. The formal Ethics Committee does not have to take up the OCE's recommendation. And the Ethics Committee only launches a formal inquiry if it reviews the evidence and decides to empanel what's called an "investigative subcommittee."

The OCE also cleared several members of any wrongdoing, dismissing its probes of Reps. Mel Watt (D-NC), Jeb Hensarling (R-TX), Christopher Lee (R-NY), Frank Lucas (R-OK) and Earl Pomeroy (D-ND).

Price seemed stunned at the referral.

"How the OCE arrived at their recommendation is truly a mystery. There being no evidence of any wrongdoing or any inconsistency in my policy position, one can only guess as to the motive behind their decision or even why they chose to initiate a review in the first place," Price said in a statement.

But the Georgia Republican said he would cooperate with a more extensive examination.

Echoing Price, Campbell wondered why the OCE targeted him.

"They have presented no evidence that would suggest wrongdoing," Campbell said. "Any suggestion to the contrary is baseless and unfounded. I look forward to a favorable resolution of this matter."The OCE has drawn significant criticism from both parties since its creation under the Democratic-controlled Congress. Outside groups can refer potential transgressions to the OCE. Lawmakers believe that casts too wide a net that could cast innocent members in a bad light.

The current ethics investigation involving Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) stemmed from an OCE referral. The Ethics Committee accuses Waters office of using her position to help a bank secure federal assistance when it was struggling. Her husband holds stock in the bank and once was a member of the bank's board. Waters denies the charges and says she never tried to intervene on behalf of that specific institution.