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Stark cleared by House ethics panel in Md. tax case

Updated 4:51 p.m.
By Ben Pershing
The House ethics committee has cleared Rep. Pete Stark (D) of any wrongdoing after probing whether the California lawmaker had improperly claimed a Maryland tax break.

The panel announced Thursday that it had voted unanimously in finding that Stark "did not violate any provision of the Code of Official Conduct" or any law and that "no further action in this matter is warranted." The committee also released a report and appendices that stretched to more than 100 pages, detailing all the evidence the panel considered, as well as the initial report it received from the Office of Congressional Ethics.

Stark was one of four lawmakers whose actions were probed by OCE, a quasi-independent body charged with vetting allegations against House members, after news reports indicated that they had received tax credits for declaring their Maryland homes to be their primary residences. A leaked ethics committee document obtained by The Washington Post in October indicated that OCE had ended its investigation of Stark in August.

The ethics panel and OCE have clashed repeatedly in recent months over the latter body's conclusions and investigative methods, and tensions between the two have again spilled out into the open in the Stark case.

According to the report released by the ethics committee Thursday, the OCE alleged that Stark "violated Maryland criminal tax law and ethics rules of the House of Representatives by intentionally filing a false application for a Maryland tax credit." But the committee disagreed with OCE's finding: "The evidence clearly establishes that Stark did not receive a tax credit as a result of filing an application for the credit. The evidence also establishes that he did not file a false application for the Maryland property tax credit. ... Representative Stark did not violate House ethics rules. Nor did he run afoul of Maryland's criminal or tax laws."

The committee noted that Stark's home in Anne Arundel County is the only one he owns, as he lives in rental accomodations in his California district. Though he did receive a homestead tax credit in Maryland from 2007 to 2009, the panel found the credit was "automatically triggered" and applied by state officials, even though Stark had taken "no affirmative action" to seek the credit.

Strikingly, the committee also declared its view that "the OCE conducted an inadequate review, the result of which was subject Representative Stark to unfounded criminal allegations." The ethics panel added that OCE relied on out-of-date information and, had it viewed the most recent tax documents related to Stark's case, would have concluded the lawmaker was in the clear.

In response to the ethics committee's report Thursday, OCE spokesman Jon Steinman made this statement:

"The OCE conducted a thorough and professional review and accurately reported the facts gathered in the course of its review. The document the Standards Committee is citing, in order to claim that the OCE 's review was inadequate, was never provided to the OCE by Representative Stark. In fact, according to the Anne Arundel County Finance Office, such documents are not even mailed to homeowners until the end of November 2009 -- almost three months after the OCE review concluded.

"Further, the OCE's review concerned the following allegation, 'Representative Stark's conduct may have violated Maryland law and the Code of Ethics for Government Service if he misrepresented information on the Application for Homestead Credit Eligibility in order to prove eligibility.' Thus, the OCE review focused on what steps Representative Stark took or did not take to secure the credit not whether he was successful in securing the credit.

"At no time did the OCE subject Representative Stark to unfounded criminal allegations."

Stark's office had not returned a calls seeking comment as of this posting.

By Ben Pershing  |  January 28, 2010; 3:40 PM ET
Categories:  Capitol Briefing  
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Posted by: fyhstyetrujykderytrjy | January 28, 2010 9:54 PM | Report abuse

the story reads, "Though he did receive a homestead tax credit in Maryland from 2007 to 2009, the panel found the credit was "automatically triggered" and applied by state officials, even though Stark had taken "no affirmative action" to seek the credit."

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that's right.... blame the state. oh for chrissakes... i think that this "investigative panels" and "ethics" committees are more concerned with keeping covered their own illegal actions rather than actually prosecuting someone.

NEWSFLASH - OCE REPORT - It has just been released by the OCE that convicted cannibal murderer Jeffery Dahmer was innocent of all charges. He simply was sent body parts as part of a holiday fruit basket mixed in with the cheese and sausage, and just "didn't know" what he was eating. The ethics panel has concurred on the findings.

Film at 11

Posted by: AuthoritativeAuthoritarian | January 28, 2010 9:18 PM | Report abuse

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