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Ethics office says ex-Rep. Deal may have violated House rules

Updated 3:21 p.m.
By Ben Pershing
The Office of Congressional Ethics said Monday that ex-Rep. Nathan Deal (R-Ga.) may have violated House rules by earning too much outside income and by lobbying Georgia officials to steer state business to an auto salvage company he co-owned.

Deal resigned from the House on the night of March 21, just hours after casting his vote against President Obama's health-reform plan. Deal said he was quitting to focus on his campaign for Georgia governor, after having been persuaded by GOP leaders to stay in the House long enough to oppose the health measure.

In late January, the OCE -- a bipartisan, quasi-independent office charged with vetting allegations against members of Congress and deciding whether they merit review by the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct -- voted to refer allegations against Deal to the ethics committee for possible further action. Because Deal is no longer in Congress, he is now beyond the disciplinary jurisdiction of the ethics committee.

On Friday, the OCE unanimously voted to release the report it sent to the ethics committee earlier this year. "Representative Deal's conduct may have violated House Rules and House Standards of Conduct," OCE concluded.

A Deal campaign spokesman responded by calling the investigation "a political witch hunt."

In August, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that Deal "personally intervened with Georgia leaders to preserve an obscure state program" that benefited Gainesville Salvage & Disposal, a company he owned with a business partner, Ken Cronan. The company has a longtime agreement with Georgia to help the state inspect salvaged vehicles, and the newspaper reported that the state program earned Deal's company $1.5 million from 2004 to 2008.

In its report released Monday, OCE found that Deal "sought to preserve a state vehicle inspection program that had generated significant personal financial benefit for him and a business partner. Representative Deal attended meetings on the state inspection program with Georgia officials and told the OCE he attended the meetings, not as a private citizen, but rather as a 'public servant' acting in some official capacity. Changes to the vehicle inspection program concerned a purely state issue and according to state officials, no other Member of Congress from Georgia involved themselves in it."

OCE also noted that "Deal was accompanied by his chief of staff at meetings on the vehicle inspection program and directed the chief of staff to use a House e-mail account to send e-mails related to the meetings," despite clear prohibitions in House rules against using official resources to advance private business interests.

On his official financial disclosure statement for 2008, Deal reported earning between $50,001 and $100,000 in "dividend income" from the salvage company. But according to OCE, Deal reported $75,000 in earned wages from the company on his 2008 tax returns.

The maximum amount of outside earned income lawmakers were allowed to take in under House rules for that year was just under $26,000, leading the OCE to conclude that Deal may have violated House rules both by exceeding that earned income limit and failing to properly disclose his finances.

In response to the release of the OCE report, Deal campaign spokesman Harris Blackwood said: "This has always been a political witch hunt fueled by Democrats who fear that Roy Barnes will lose the governor's race to Nathan Deal. In its own report, the Office of Congressional Ethics admits that its efforts were incomplete and it does NOT conclude that Mr. Deal did anything wrong. That's because Nathan Deal did nothing wrong."

Blackwood charged that the probe wad "an attempt by Nathan's political opponents to drag his good name through the mud. ... The only shred of truth in this political attack is that an innocent accounting error was made and subsequently corrected."

The OCE is run by a six-member board that is split evenly between Democrats and Republicans.

Deal is currently locked in a tight GOP primary contest against multiple contenders for the right to take on former Gov. Roy Barnes, the likely Democratic nominee, in November.

By Ben Pershing  |  March 29, 2010; 2:29 PM ET
Categories:  Capitol Briefing  
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when are the people of this country going to wake up and realize that all politicians of both parties are under the influence of lobbyist.our government is ruled by big money.and for this reason alone the lobbying law has to be repealed.

Posted by: SISSD1 | March 30, 2010 9:35 AM | Report abuse

OK, so why does the ethics committee care about a Representative who resigned if they didn't care about Rengal and all of his known ethics violations. Or what about all of the other Democrats that violated ethics rule but have not been talked about. I think it is interesting how the WAPO is trying to run all of these articles about the Republicans when they could be running real news stories about how the new Democratic healthcare bill is going to cost corporations more money, reducing their profits, resulting in them not being able to hire new workers, only prolonging the growth of the economy and reducing unemployment. And lets not forget about the fact that as a result of these increased costs by coporations they are going to reduce the level of benefits they provide their employees and retirees. So that is only going to lead to more out of pocket costs to you and me! OH, and lets not forget all of the new taxes that democrats want to put in place and the VAT that the states will need to establish to cover the cost gaps as a result of the new healthcare mandates.

So in the end what we get is a law that reduced our level of benefits, requires more out of pocket expenses, and increased our taxes, ultimately reducing the amount of money we will have left to pay our mortgages and other living expenses, like food and utilities. Well at this rate, maybe the govt should just provide these services too! The Democrats, and this "news" story are a joke!

Posted by: sanmateo1850 | March 29, 2010 9:48 PM | Report abuse

Same old Halliburton ethics. Thanks, Republicans.

Posted by: B2O2 | March 29, 2010 8:36 PM | Report abuse

They aren't even sure it is against the rules..

Posted by: orogero | March 29, 2010 7:33 PM | Report abuse

That's right Mr. Steele, the plan to implode the entire RNC is going accordingly. Some say you are an Uncle Tom, but I think you are a genius. You were picked as a token to counter Obama, so play your role and continue to **Steele** that money! Take them for everything they got player! Good luck and keep doing what you do!

Posted by: austininc4 | March 29, 2010 7:20 PM | Report abuse

Right-wing politicians ALWAYS think they are above the law. Right, Mr. Gingrich? Mr. DeLay? How about you, Mr. Cheney? At least Duke Cunningham got put away for selling influence. How about prosecuting some other scofflaws. I nominate Dick Cheney and his illegal dealings with Iraq and Iran when he was CEO of Halliburton.

Posted by: BigTrees | March 29, 2010 7:15 PM | Report abuse

where are the jobs...

Posted by: DwightCollins | March 29, 2010 7:10 PM | Report abuse

This jacka** is corrupt to the core. I am unfortunate enough to own a home in his district and its value has plummeted over the past couple of years. Unemployment is SKY HIGH and yet he votes NO, NO, NO, like a brain dead robot.
Like I said, he's a total jacka**.

Posted by: TOMHERE | March 29, 2010 6:37 PM | Report abuse

There are two questions about $75,000.
First, did the Congressman perform work for this company ?
Second, maybe the dividends received may have been taxable as compensation.
Did this man take any bribes ? Did he solicit in man's rooms? Does he have $100,000 in cash stashed away in a freezer? Finally, he advocated for his business in Georgia. He lives there? So was this not in the capacity as a private citizen? Would it not been very different if he petitioned a U.S. Government agency?

I guess ask Nancy that defender of La. Freezer man.

Posted by: peterroach | March 29, 2010 5:52 PM | Report abuse

Nathan Deal, meet Duke Cunningham. You may be roommates soon. Two GOPhonies bunking together. ;-)

Posted by: Brittman1 | March 29, 2010 5:44 PM | Report abuse

lolol......... like the people can't see thru this..........

Posted by: Micholina1 | March 29, 2010 5:12 PM | Report abuse

Have I got a Deal for you!

Posted by: thrh | March 29, 2010 5:08 PM | Report abuse

This is what I call a B F Deal.

Posted by: angelos_peter | March 29, 2010 4:19 PM | Report abuse

They elected the owner of a junk yard to congress?? Classy, Georgia, really classy>

Posted by: thebobbob | March 29, 2010 4:19 PM | Report abuse

hell its just as bad at state and local level.but at the local we can generally get them out faster than state or federal because there they are covered by theirmates who are as crooked as they are.

Posted by: donaldtucker | March 29, 2010 4:12 PM | Report abuse

I wonder if the politicians in Washington, on BOTH sides of the asile, really comprehend how angry the American people about the way they conduct themselves? Every time you turn around there is another problem with a politician from one party or the other. It is time for term limits, career politicians have to go.

Posted by: storms48 | March 29, 2010 3:59 PM | Report abuse

Oh, so what, croynism seems to have trumped common sense in D.C. making Conflict of Interest no big Deal.

Posted by: truthhurts | March 29, 2010 2:52 PM
Were you as magnanimous when it was Rangle who stood accused of ethics violations? Somehow I doubt it.

Posted by: Lefty_ | March 29, 2010 3:44 PM | Report abuse

I also note from the right, the the some in the left party did the same.

I wish you stop that. My mom said two wrongs don't make it right.

It gets down to people, their ethics, morals and values. We got what we voted for.

Stop bring up a tit for tat...wrong is wrong know matter what party does it.

Let's start using common sense again, and really raise our standards for all elected officials.

If not we will keep getting more of the same.

Posted by: pjaud | March 29, 2010 3:14 PM | Report abuse

More of the same from the right. Wake up people. The right is self righteousness, always been that way.

Just same old story more of the same, it;s them and then the country. This not a left or right issue, they just have you believing that it is.

It's the power structure. Get hip, read, and stop watching TV.

Posted by: pjaud | March 29, 2010 3:11 PM | Report abuse

Let's start over! Vote them Out. Where do we start since there are so many who will do anything to feather their nests.

Posted by: rimallek | March 29, 2010 3:07 PM | Report abuse

Am I mistaken, but didn't Congressman Charlie Rangel violated House Rules as the Chairman of the Tax Writing Committee. Hope the House will do its duty send Charlie back to harlem

Posted by: rimallek | March 29, 2010 3:03 PM | Report abuse

What a despicable character! No wonder he's refused to comment--what could he say?

It's just too bad the Ethics Committee couldn't issue its finding while Deal was still a member of Congress. But I trust that his rivals in the primary will be able to use this to drive him out of the race and back under the rock from which he slithered.

Posted by: DCSteve1 | March 29, 2010 3:03 PM | Report abuse

Oh, so what, croynism seems to have trumped common sense in D.C. making Conflict of Interest no big Deal.

Posted by: truthhurts | March 29, 2010 2:52 PM | Report abuse

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