Justice Dept. ends probe of Rep. Mollohan

By Paul Kane
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, January 26, 2010; 3:25 PM

The Justice Department has shuttered its nearly four-year investigation into the personal finances of Rep. Alan Mollohan (D-W.Va.), freeing the 14-term lawmaker to pursue what could be a tough bid for reelection without the lingering cloud of a federal criminal probe.

The U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia had been overseeing an investigation of Mollohan, a senior member of the House Appropriations Committee, for steering roughly $250 million in line-item expenditures to several nonprofit organizations run by close friends, who also were real estate partners with him.

Mollohan's office was notified this month that the investigation had been closed without criminal charges filed. Federal prosecutors declined to elaborate on what the investigation had found.

"We're not going to get into any details, but I can confirm we've closed the investigation into Alan Mollohan," Ben Friedman, spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office, said Monday evening.

Mollohan, 66, is expected to notify House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Rep. David R. Obey (D-Wis.), chairman of the Appropriations Committee, of the development in a letter Tuesday. That would clear the way for him to resume full control of a subcommittee that oversees the roughly $28 billion budget for the Justice Department and the nearly $8 billion budget for the FBI.

In a statement, Mollohan said the investigation was sparked by a conservative watchdog group's partisan actions. The probe was launched when he was serving as the top Democrat on the House ethics committee.

"For nearly four years, in the face of a politically-motivated assault on my character, I have continued to fight for jobs and the working families of West Virginia. With this behind me, I am more determined than ever to stand up for the people of the First Congressional District and fight for what matters," Mollohan said.

He recently filed to run for reelection, squelching whispers that he might join several other longtime incumbents who decided to retire rather than face a tough political environment in November.

In recent weeks, the independent political handicappers Cook Political Report and the Rothenberg Political Report have downgraded Mollohan's seat to "lean Democratic" status. The Republican Party did not field a challenger to Mollohan in 2008, but national party leaders have recruited several potential candidates while seeking to maintain a drumbeat of criticism related to the criminal investigation. They pivoted away from the ethics matter Tuesday and sought to focus on the state's economy.

"Alan Mollohan's support for Obama's war on Mountaineer State jobs proves that it doesn't matter whether he's in Congress or behind bars -- he stopped representing West Virginians a long time ago," said Andy Seré, spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee.

A federal grand jury issued a flurry of subpoenas to West Virginia-based nonprofits in 2006 and 2007, after a 500-page criminal complaint regarding Mollohan's finances in February 2006.

The complaint came from the National Legal and Policy Center, a conservative group that discovered discrepancies in Mollohan's personal financial disclosure forms. It raised questions about how his personal wealth rose -- according to congressional disclosure reports he filed -- from a minimum of $180,000 in 2000 to a minimum of $6.3 million in 2004.

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