WASHINGTON – Retiring Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., created an appearance of impropriety when he called a federal prosecutor in New Mexico to inquire about the timing of corruption indictments, the Senate ethics committee said Thursday.
The committee criticized Domenici in a letter to the senator, but it recommended no punishment.
The prosecutor, David Iglesias, later was fired and said he felt pressured by Domenici.
The incident marred the career of the six-term senator, who has been influential on energy and budget issues during his long career. He announced last year he was retiring at the end of his term because of a degenerative brain disease.
"The committee finds no substantial evidence to determine that you attempted to improperly influence an ongoing investigation," the committee letter said.
"The committee does find that you should have known that a federal prosecutor receiving such a telephone call, coupled with an approaching election which may have turned on or been influenced by the prosecutor's actions ... created an appearance of impropriety that reflected unfavorably on the Senate."
Domenici said in a statement, "I am gratified the Senate ethics committee has concluded its inquiry favorably without a formal adjudicatory review, confirming what I have always maintained: I did not attempt to improperly influence an ongoing investigation when I telephoned the former United States Attorney for the District of New Mexico.
"Nevertheless, as I said publicly last March when this complaint was originally filed, I regret the distraction this controversy has caused my colleagues, my staff, my family and, most importantly, my constituents. Now that this matter has concluded favorably, I am anxious to focus all of my time and attention on the business of the people of New Mexico."