House Ethics Committee Opens Probe into Filner's Airport Altercation
Ethics panels on both ends of the Capitol now are conducting investigations into airport behavior by members of Congress.
The House ethics committee announced today that it will investigate Rep. Bob Filner (D-Calif.) for his alleged assault and battery of airline employees at Dulles International Airport on Aug. 19.
Filner, who faces a trial on the misdemeanor charges beginning Oct. 2, is accused of storming into a United Airlines baggage office, pushing his way past other customers and shoving a female employee.
Filner, the chairman of the Veterans Affairs Committee, issued a statement in late August explaining that the incident was one of "much misunderstanding" after a delayed flight and then delayed luggage arrival.
The congressman will now have to also answer to his peers on the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, as the ethics panel is formally known. Panel members announced today that they will form an investigative subcommittee to examine Filner's behavior.
"The committee recommended that the investigative subcommittee defer action on its investigation until the proceedings involving Representative Filner in Loudon County have concluded," said Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones (D-Ohio) and Doc Hastings (R-Wash.), the chairwoman and ranking member, respectively, of the full committee.
This is the first instance in which the ethics committee has had to act under a new internal House rule that requires the panel to decide publicly whether to launch an investigation within a month of criminal charges being filed against a lawmaker.
No such rule exists on the Senate side, but an ethics investigation is underway into a disorderly conduct charge against Sen. Larry Craig (R-Idaho) following his arrest June 11 in a men's restroom sex sting in the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. In that case, Craig's lawyers asserted that there were no grounds for an internal investigation because the incident had nothing to do with Craig's official capacity as a senator - which could be a similar defense asserted by Filner.
But the Senate ethics panel issued a lengthy rebuttal statement, asserting that it had plenty of jurisdiction to examine Craig's actions because of rules allowing reprimands "when such conduct unfavorably reflects on the institution as a whole."
Craig, who has said he will resign Sept. 30 if he cannot get his guilty plea overturned, has returned to the chamber this week and is casting votes on a regular basis. His hearing to withdraw his guilty plea will be held in Minnesota's Hennepin County District Court next Wednesday, six days before Filner faces his own local trial for alleged airport misbehavior.
September 19, 2007; 2:28 PM ET
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