WASHINGTON – The Senate Ethics Committee chairman withdrew Friday from a review of Sen. Robert Torricelli's conduct because he had contributed $500 to Torricelli's defense fund.
Chairman Harry Reid, D-Nev., said he wanted the review of the New Jersey Democrat "to be free of any sort of distraction."
The withdrawal was announced by Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., whose written statement included Reid's statement. Daschle said Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, will be the committee chairman for the Torricelli review.
A three-year federal investigation into the political and personal finances of Torricelli ended in early January with no criminal charges. Prosecutors referred their information to the ethics committee, which has not announced a formal investigation.
Three watchdog groups had asked Reid, the No. 2 Democrat in the Senate, to recuse himself because of the donation.
"Although I firmly believe that my ability to render independent and impartial judgment has not been compromised ... I respect the concerns that have been raised," Reid said.