The House ethics committee’s top Democrat, under fire from Republicans, said Friday he’s unaware of any errors in his financial disclosures the past nine years.
Rep. Alan Mollohan, D-W.Va., provided a detailed explanation of his investments a week after a conservative group questioned the accuracy of his annual financial reporting. Republican campaign officials called for his resignation from the ethics panel, but Mollohan refused to step down.
The allegations could have an impact on the ethics committee’s ability to investigate wrongdoing and could be a factor in this year’s congressional elections.
The committee has been unable to launch new investigations because its five Democrats and five Republicans have blocked each other from moving forward. The partisan split may become more bitter with GOP calls for Mollohan to leave the panel.
The allegations also allow Republicans to counter a major Democratic campaign theme: that majority Republicans have allowed a “culture of corruption” in the House and Senate.
Congressional Democrats want the ethics panel to investigate lawmakers who had ties to convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff, to determine whether the members broke the rules by providing legislative help in return for free trips, restaurant meals and seats in arena skyboxes.
Federal prosecutors are conducting criminal investigations into the same conduct.
Besides the allegations against Mollohan, the senior Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee _ John Conyers of Michigan _ stands accused by former staff members of misusing his office by turning them into baby sitters for his children.
His office said in a statement that the baby sitting allegations refer to events nearly a decade ago, even though they were only recently raised in public. The statement said Conyers cooperated with the committee when it raised questions about the allegations two years ago, but never heard back from the panel.
The National Legal and Policy Center _ a conservative nonprofit organization that promotes ethics in government through research, education and legal action _ said last week it had filed a complaint in February with federal prosecutors, alleging Mollohan consistently undervalued and omitted assets in his annual reporting. The U.S. attorney’s office in Washington refused to confirm whether it is investigating Mollohan.
Mollohan said the value of his property investments _ owned by him and his wife _ increased sharply because of rising values in Washington, D.C., and the North Carolina shore since 2000. The lawmaker said the value was offset by large mortgages, and the couple borrowed against their existing holdings to acquire new property.
In 2001, Mollohan added, the couple increased their holdings after the lawmaker inherited a share of his father’s real estate holdings in West Virginia.
Mollohan said the Legal and Policy Center appeared to assert that he should have valued his holdings without regard to his liabilities.
The lawmaker said he can’t address allegations that he made 250 errors in his reporting since 1996, because the center has not provided him with details.
He added, “Any claim whatsoever that these investments are in any way related to my actions as a member of Congress is categorically false.”
Mollohan said his financial reports are prepared by a respected accounting firm.
“I would never be so bold as to say that there are no errors whatsoever in the 24 annual financial disclosure statements I have filed as a member of Congress. “What I will say, however, is that if there are any errors in those forms, they were inadvertent, and I am convinced that they are not material _ that is, those forms provide an accurate picture of the investments, income and liabilities of my wife and me….”
Mollohan’s 2000 report indicated he had assets worth between $170,012 to $562,000 and liabilities between $170,000 and $465,000. The disclosure reports let congressmen report their finances within broad ranges.
His 2004 report indicated he had assets of $6.3 million to $24.9 million and liabilities of $3.66 million to $13.5 million.
On the Net:
Committee on Standards of Official Conduct: http://www.house.gov/ethics/
© 2006 The Associated Press