House Panel Lays Ground for Renewed Probe Into Massa Scandal

July 16, 2011

By Chad Pergram |

In a rather extraordinary move, the House ethics committee on Friday voted to re-establish an investigative subcommittee relating to former Rep. Eric Massa, D-N.Y., in what suggests a formal inquiry could be launched into current or former member tied to the ex-congressman’s scandal.

Massa resigned in 2010 after facing allegations of sexual harassment from a male aide. Massa told Fox News at the time that “not only did I grope (the aide), I tickled him until he couldn’t breathe.” He chalked it up to bawdy but harmless behavior learned in his Navy days.

An investigative subcommittee is only launched if the committee believes there is some “fire” where they see smoke. It’s the congressional equivalent of an indictment. In other words, there may not be wrongdoing but the panel has investigated and believes there is something worth looking at.

Rep. Jo Bonner, R-Ala., will serve as the chair of the investigative subcommittee. Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., will serve as the ranking Democrat. Also on the investigative subcommittee are Reps. Michael Conaway, R-Texas, and Ben Chandler, D-Ky.

By way of process, the investigative subcommittee looks into the matter and then refers it back to the full panel with a recommendation. The recommendation could be one of action or a suggestion that it drop the issue. The investigative subcommittee may also suggest punishment.

Finally, the full House would have to sign off on any discipline against a member.

In the last Congress, the ethics panel started to probe Massa, but it dropped it when he resigned.The committee then dropped the investigation.

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