Contributions to Rep. Barton's foundation probed

By Lindsey Layton
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, October 30, 2009; 11:24 AM

The Office of Congressional Ethics reviewed contributions made by corporations to a foundation created by Rep. Joe L. Barton (R-Tex.), the ranking Republican on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, according to an internal document from the House ethics committee -- a separate investigative body.

Barton said in a statement Thursday that the investigation exonerated him of any impropriety.

"The Office of Congressional Ethics is no longer investigating me," Barton said. "They voted unanimously that there was no ethical misconduct or anything inappropriate done by myself or the Joe Barton Family Foundation."

Barton's daughter-in-law, Amy Barton, serves as executive director of the foundation.

Several industries overseen by the energy and commerce panel have donated to his foundation, according to the ethics committee document. One company, Exelon, gave $25,000 to the foundation last year, according to the Washington Times. The company has been trying to win government approval to build a nuclear power plant in Texas. At the time of the donation, Barton said it was time for a "rebirth of the nuclear power industry in this country."

Investigators also were looking at cases in which some companies have made donations to other charities in the name of Barton's foundation. House rules require that donations made by lobbyists to lawmakers' charities be publicly disclosed.

After the foundation promised to give $500,000 to help build a $3 million kitchen and offices for a local Meals on Wheels program, two companies with business before Energy and Commerce -- Future Energy Holdings and the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad -- gave $35,000 toward the project in the name of the Barton foundation, according to the Washington Times.

In his statement, Barton said, "I don't think it is fair that Members of Congress who are accused of misconduct have their names released to the public before an investigation into the charges determine if a possible violation may have occurred."

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