Three conservative Republicans plan to urge the House ethics committee to review its investigation of Rep. Fernand J. St Germain (D-R.I.) amid fresh allegations of improper financial conduct by the 14-term congressman, aides said.
The call, led by Rep. Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.), comes two weeks after The Wall Street Journal reported that the Justice Department began a criminal investigation into allegations that a savings and loan industry lobbyist paid some of St Germain's entertainment bills.
St Germain first came under scrutiny in 1985 in connection with allegations that he became a millionaire with help from investors he aided while chairman of the House Banking Committee.
The ethics panel, in a 1,400-page report released in April, cleared St Germain, rejecting allegations that he improperly benefited from no-money-down loans and that his office influenced federal banking regulators on behalf of a friend.
The committee did conclude that St Germain failed to report assets properly on his financial disclosure statements and violated House rules by accepting a free plane ride from a Florida savings and loan association. But the panel recommended no disciplinary actions.
"It seems to me that we have now arrived at a situation in Congress where ethics in the House of Representatives means only having to say you're sorry," Rep. Robert S. Walker (R-Pa.) said.
In a July 16 story, the Journal quoted unidentified sources as saying a federal grand jury in Washington subpoenaed records of the U.S. League of Savings Institutions and its lobbyist, James O. Freeman.
The paper said St Germain once paid for a restaurant meal for himself and some guests with Freeman's credit card even though the lobbyist was not there.
Gingrich called the St Germain investigation a "whitewash." St Germain aide Ed Matovcik said the congressman, who has generally declined comment on past allegations, likely would have nothing to say.
Gingrich is writing a letter to Rep. Julian C. Dixon (D-Calif.), chairman of the ethics panel, known officially as the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct. Aides to Walker and Robert C. Smith (R-N.H.) said the two would join in the letter.