Friend's testimony led to investigation of Rep. Graves

By Robert O'Harrow Jr.
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, October 30, 2009; 11:36 AM

The House Ethics Committee has cleared Rep. Sam Graves (Mo.), the ranking Republican on the House Small Business Committee, of any impropriety after scrutinizing him early this year.

The committee said Thursday that it found nothing improper in Graves helping arrange for a business associate of his wife's, a man who also is his friend and neighbor, to testify before the small business committee.

Graves's office noted that the committee voted unanimously to dismiss the allegations.

"In dismissing this matter, the Committee found that not only was there no violation of any rule, but that even if the allegation were true, there would have been no violation of any rule," Graves said in a statement. "The anonymous accusation amounted to nothing more than a political smear."

The incident involved an invitation Graves made to Brooks Hurst to testify about the renewable-fuels industry, the second time Hurst had been invited. Hurst is an investor with Graves's wife in renewable-fuel facilities in Missouri. Graves and Hurst also jointly own several small aircraft and fly together, according to an account in Roll Call.

After the March 4 hearing, the independent Office of Congressional Ethics began examining the relationship between Graves and Hurst. The office recommended that the House ethics committee launch a formal investigation. The case is among those listed in a July weekly report from the panel that was obtained by The Washington Post.

On Sept. 15, the ethics panel's chairman, Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), and its ranking Republican, Rep. Jo Bonner (Ala.), suggested that the Office of Congressional Ethics had improperly recommended a full investigation and failed to give Graves "potentially exculpatory materials."

The chairman and co-chairman of the ethics office denied in a statement that it withheld any evidence. They said the evidence reviewed had come directly from Graves. "The OCE Board did find substantial reason to believe that a substantive violation may have occurred," the statement said.

In his statement, Graves said, "I understand that the nature of politics sometimes involves fending off frivolous, anonymous allegations. But our ethics process, like our system of justice, must be built upon bedrock principles of due process and fundamental fairness."

In a recent report, the Office of Congressional Ethics said its board "has never authorized a review based on an anonymous 'complaint.' "

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