Washington Post Staff Writer
Rep. Austin J. Murphy, a six-term Democrat from southwestern Pennsylvania, was charged by the House ethics committee yesterday with violating House rules by allowing "another person" to cast his votes on the floor on three days when he was away from Washington.
Murphy, 60, also was accused by the committee of diverting congressional funds to his old law firm and of placing a "ghost" employe on the staff of a labor subcommittee he headed for a year without requiring the staffer to do work "commensurate" with his salary.
The congressman's office said he had not had time to review the charge but is "confident that when he has had an opportunity to present a full and thorough reply to the allegations that the committee will conclude that there has been no violation of the House rules."
The case, which could lead to the House imposing sanctions against Murphy, grew out of an investigation by The Washington Times, which earlier this year quoted a former member of Murphy's staff as saying that Murphy had directed an aide to give his voting card to another House member when he was out of Washington on several occasions. The ethics committee, formally named the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, charged that Murphy allowed someone to cast his votes twice in 1978 and on one day in 1982.
The six-count charge sheet issued by the committee did not name the individual who allegedly used Murphy's voting card. A Murphy aide said he believed one of the voters may have been Michael O. (Ozzie) Myers (D-Pa.), who was expelled from the House in 1980 in the Abscam influence-peddling scandal.
The ethics committee named a former Myers aide, Michael Corbett, as the "ghost" employe who was paid by a labor subcommittee from September 1981 to August 1982. Corbett was an administrative assistant to Myers.
In addition to the charges against Murphy, the ethics panel announced separately that it is beginning preliminary investigations into allegations of misconduct by Democratic Reps. Richard H. Stallings (Idaho) and Mario Biaggi (N.Y.).
Biaggi, a 10-term House member from the Bronx, was convicted Tuesday in a federal court in New York of obstructing justice and two other offenses in a case growing out of his effort to help a small Brooklyn ship repair company. The inquiry against him is mandatory under House rules, which require a review of any member convicted of a crime that may involve imprisonment of at least one year.
Stallings, who has been in the House two terms, has said that he has been accused of letting his campaign committee make $5,800 in loans to himself and an aide -- loans that he asserted again yesterday were proper and were disclosed under applicable laws.
"Accordingly, I welcome the opportunity to work with the committee to resolve any doubts about the loans and to take any steps requested to settle this matter as quickly as possible," he said.