The House ethics committee yesterday found that Rep. Austin J. Murphy (D-Pa.) violated House rules by hiring a no-show employe, diverting government equipment to his former law firm and twice allowing someone else to cast votes for him on the House floor.
Murphy, who is in his sixth term, announced the findings as the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct continued to meet in closed session on his case.
Murphy said he was "both surprised and disappointed" by the committee's action. "Unfortunately, a disciplinary hearing is not a court of law, and there's no appeals process," he said. "The decision -- whether or not right or just -- is final. I believe sufficient evidence and testimony was presented to totally refute the allegations."
A committee staff member said the ethics panel would have no statement last night and was planning to resume deliberations on the issue this morning.
The committee is expected to make a formal recommendation for disciplinary action to the full House this week. In a letter to the panel, Murphy said, "I understand that the committee will recommend a reprimand, and I am prepared to argue that issue directly with my colleagues on the House floor."
Murphy said he had "officially waived my right to a second phase hearing on the committee's recommended sanctions. This action expresses my hope that members will look beyond political expediency and vote solely on available facts."
He charged that the committee, which has been harshly criticized in the past for failing to be sufficiently aggressive, "is choosing to rehabilitate its reputation, under extreme political pressure to do so, with a case that should never have been brought to this stage."
"It's clear that the committee had one agenda from the start, to simply make an example of someone. To reach its goal, the committee had to sustain a 'ghost voting' charge because the other allegations were too weak to bring . . . to the House floor," Murphy said.
The House has not disciplined anyone since former representative George Hansen (R-Idaho) was reprimanded in July 1984 for filing false financial disclosure statements. He was later sent to prison.
The ethics committee had originally charged Murphy with three counts of "ghost voting" in 1978 for having colleagues insert his voting card in the House's electronic tally machine at times he was out of town. One charge was dropped by the committee yesterday, Murphy said.
Murphy's attorneys had argued in filings with the ethics panel that House rules did not forbid that type of proxy voting until January 1981. In his statement, he said, "The committee has ignored the Constitution and House rules and practice and has now subjected every member of Congress to disciplinary action for violating any House rule regardless of when it became effective."
But Mark Davis, ethics committee counsel, has said the proxy voting practice was allowed only in committees, not on the House floor.
The committee, after six days of taking testimony and three days of deliberations, also found Murphy guilty of diverting "official resources," including furniture, supplies, photocopy services, and long distance telephone service, from the House to his former private law firm in Charleroi, Pa.
The panel also found that from September 1981 through August 1982, Austin maintained a $49,500-a-year employe, Michael Corbett, as staff director for a House subcommittee that Murphy chaired, even though Corbett rarely appeared.