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Justice Dept. ends probe of Rep. Mollohan

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Mollohan attributed much of that increase to a family inheritance and to the soaring property values of a condominium building he owns in the District's West End. After a self-imposed audit, Mollohan filed amended reports that corrected roughly 20 mistakes in his disclosure forms. He contended they were minimal in nature.

However, federal investigators continued to focus on multimillion-dollar earmarks that Mollohan steered to entities such as Vandalia Heritage Foundation, a historic-preservation group that was run by Laura Kuhns, a former Mollohan staff member.

The lawmaker's family also invested with Kuhns's family in North Carolina beach property, including a lot in Bald Head that went to foreclosure late last year.

Pete Flaherty, who co-founded the NLPC, questioned whether the Justice Department backed off the investigation because Mollohan is a loyal vote for the Obama administration. "Has Attorney General Eric Holder now made it legal for members of Congress to earmark money to their business partners? This is a horrible precedent," Flaherty said.

The Mollohan investigation came at the height of Democratic attacks on what Pelosi, then the minority leader, called the Republican "culture of corruption." Mollohan served as ranking Democrat on the ethics panel when it admonished House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) in 2004 over fundraising activities. Mollohan also fought rules changes that GOP leaders imposed in 2005, leading to a virtual shutdown of the committee's work for several months.

Shortly after the investigation became public, Mollohan stepped down from the ethics committee. When Democrats claimed the majority in January 2007, Mollohan took over as chairman of the Appropriations justice subcommittee, but recused himself from voting on matters specifically related to the FBI and the attorney general's office.

In his statement Tuesday, Mollohan defended helping to fund the nonprofit groups: "These nonprofits are all about building West Virginia's economy and making our state a better place to live. I am very happy that they will be able to put this behind them and refocus on their core missions to create good jobs and improve the lives of West Virginians."

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