Ethics committee clears Rep. Shuler
By Ben Pershing
The House ethics committee has informed Rep. Heath Shuler (D-N.C.) that he has been cleared of wrongdoing and is no longer under investigation by the panel for allegations that a real estate development in which he invested may have received preferential treatment from a government agency.
Shuler, the former Washington Redskins quarterback who was elected to Congress in 2006, had previously been part of a probe by the Tennessee Valley Authority's Inspector General because of his investment in a real estate development called the Cove at Blackberry Ridge near Knoxville. According to a letter sent to Shuler Wednesday by the ethics committee, that IG investigation "could not find any evidence that you violated any ethics rules." And after its own "thorough review," the committee said it "has determined that your actions in these matters were not improper in any way and did not violate House rules."
In a news release announcing his exoneration, Shuler said: "Throughout my personal and professional life I have always held myself to the highest possible ethical standard. I maintained that standard through all my interactions with the TVA relating to Blackberry Cove. I have never and will never attempt to use my office for personal gain and look forward to continuing to work on behalf of the people of Western North Carolina."
The fact that Shuler was under investigation by the ethics committee was disclosed last week by The Washington Post, which based its report on an ethics committee document the newspaper obtained outlining the status of several different investigations as of July. The document said the committee was "Preparing Recommendations" at the time.
Shuler invested in the Cove real estate project before he was elected to Congress. In August 2008, the Knoxville News-Sentinel reported that the TVA gave the Cove valuable waterfront rights to build a boat dock in exchange for other land the real estate venture owned. The swap occurred while Shuler sat on a House subcommittee that oversaw the operations of the TVA, but Shuler has said he had no contact with or influence on the agency before it made its decision.
The ethics panel letter states that, according to the IG report, "in order to avoid the appearance of partiality, Blackberry was held to a higher standard for approval than were others." The letter further discloses that "the FBI also reviewed the facts surrounding the application and also concluded that there was no evidence that criminal statutes were violated."
November 5, 2009; 3:08 PM ET
Categories: Ethics and Rules , House
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