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Published June 29 2010

Ethics probe mystifies Earl Pomeroy

WASHINGTON, D.C. – North Dakota Democrat Earl Pomeroy says he doesn’t know why he’s among the eight congressmen being targeted for investigation by the House Office of Congressional Ethics, but he believes the outcome will be in his favor.

The OCE does not confirm or deny any investigations that may be happening. But the ethics probe into Pomeroy and seven other members of Congress is reportedly focusing on possible ties to campaign contributions the congressmen received from financial sector interests in the days prior to the House vote on the financial regulation reform bill, which Pomeroy voted for.

The office’s preliminary review has been extended 30 more days, giving OCE staff more time to investigate the validity of the allegations against the congressmen. The preliminary review stage means there is “reasonable cause” for OCE to believe the allegations.

In an interview with The Forum on Monday evening in Pomeroy’s Capitol Hill office, the nine-term congressman answered candidly when asked about the preliminary review in progress by the OCE.

“I don’t fully understand what they’re looking at,” he said. “It seems the crux of it is: Has there been improper influence relative to the vote on Wall Street reform? I voted against Wall Street, and I voted for reform. I mean, that’s a core issue. I voted to reform the big banks and big interests on Wall Street.”

Pomeroy told The Forum that he has no reason to believe why he’s being investigated as opposed to other congressmen in the House who might have received similar contributions.

According to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, Pomeroy received $11,250 in contributions from the financial sector in the 10 days prior to the House vote in December. The amount Pomeroy received was the sixth highest among the eight congressmen being investigated.

“Every contribution I’ve received has been reported fully to the FEC,” Pomeroy said Monday of his campaign contributions. “I’m not hiding anything. … When they get done reviewing the facts we sent them, I think it’ll be resolved favorably.”

While Pomeroy voiced confidence, he acknowledged that the accusation and ongoing ethics probe are uncomfortable.

“Given the facts, I think they’ll come to the right conclusion, but I’d just as soon have them do it sooner rather than later,” he said. “This is not comfortable to have these kinds of questions raised.”

Pomeroy is taking heat from state Republicans who are energized at the prospect of unseating him in November. When asked if he was concerned that the ethics probe might affect his re-election, Pomeroy replied: “North Dakotans prize integrity in public service, and it’s something that I believe goes to the core of how I’ve represented North Dakota.”

“If they want to ask the questions, let them ask the questions,” he continued. “We’re gonna give them the facts. In days, these questions will be answered and over. … I didn’t knuckle under to Wall Street. I stood up to Wall Street – that’s the core of the issue.”

Pomeroy said he expects a House vote this week on final passage of the financial regulation reform bill, and he said he intends to again vote in favor of the legislation.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Kristen Daum at (701) 241-5541