U.S. ethics panel clears Tiahrt, six others

A House ethics panel has cleared Kansas Congressman Todd Tiahrt and six other members in connection with an ethics inquiry into defense lobbying and corporate influence peddling.

In announcing its findings Friday, the committee concluded that Tiahrt, a candidate for the U.S. Senate this year, had not violated “any law, regulation, rule or other applicable standard of conduct.”

Tiahrt called the news “absolute vindication.”

“This comes as no surprise because there never was anything to justify a review in the first place,” he said in a statement.

Also cleared were Reps. Norman Dicks of Washington; Marcy Kaptur of Ohio; James Moran of Virginia; the late John Murtha of Pennsylvania; Bill Young of Florida, and Peter Visclosky of Indiana.

The ruling lifts a major obstacle from Tiahrt’s path as he runs for the GOP Senate nomination against fellow congressman, Jerry Moran of Hays. The primary election is in August.

Tiahrt’s name was first released in October in connection with the ethics probe. The release came as a result of a case of “cyberhacking” in which supposedly secret files were found on the Internet.

The Wichita representative is a member of a powerful House subcommittee that controls Pentagon spending. Several subcommittee members were included in the October release of names.

All were being examined in connection with their work obtaining earmarks for clients of an influential lobbying firm known as the PMA Group.

At the time, the existence of the inquiry did not mean there had been a finding that Tiahrt had violated any laws or standards of conduct.

The PMA Group, which has now closed, allegedly was part of a pay-for-play operation in which the firm and its clients benefited from billions of dollars in earmarks in exchange for campaign contributions.

After its nine-month review, the ethics panel — formally known as the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct — determined that none of the members under review, which included five Democrats and two Republicans, had violated “any provision of the Code of Official Conduct.”

The committee said it was closing its investigation.

Tiahrt said the report validates the process his office employs to grant earmarks, or appropriations for projects in a member’s home district. Tiahrt’s criteria includes “the number of jobs created in the member’s district or the value to the taxpayer or the U.S. military,” the panel said.

That process has resulted in jobs for thousands of workers, Tiahrt said.

“What’s more important than my vindication is that we have prevented political smear attempts from slowing us down as we fight for Kansas jobs,” he said.