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Rep. Petri gets what he wants: An ethics review of himself

Rep. Thomas Petri (R-Wisc.). (AP Photo)

The House Ethics Committee on Monday said it will examine whether retiring Rep. Tom Petri (R-Wisc.) acted inappropriately when he advocated for a defense contracting firm in which he owned stock — a review that the congressman himself requested.

Petri, who decided in April not to seek re-election after 18 terms in Congress, said he looks forward to the panel completing its investigation. “I remain confident that the committee will find that I acted properly, and that I reasonably sought, relied on, and followed the committee’s advice and that I complied with House rules,” he said in a statement, according to a National Journal report.

The panel said in a sparsely-worded announcement that the decision to review the lawmaker’s advocacy “does not itself indicate that any violation has occurred, or reflect any judgment on behalf of the Committee.”

Petri is the third most-senior Republican in the House. He requested the review in a February letter to the ethics committee, saying he was “distressed by the innuendo” and wanted to “end any questions” about his actions.

The move came after a Gannett report revealed that Petri bought hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of stock in the Oshkosh military-truck manufacturer, which is based in his district, and then pressed lawmakers and Pentagon officials to help the company keep a $3 billion contract while the Defense Department was facing budget cuts. The article noted that the value of his investment had increased by 30 percent as of February.

House ethics rules bar members of Congress from using their positions for personal gain, but the guidelines are relatively vague and open to interpretation.

A follow-up article from Gannett quoted Petri spokesman Lee Brooks saying the lawmaker had done nothing wrong.

“Working with the Wisconsin delegation to support fair treatment for a local employer led to the creation of thousands of middle-class jobs in his district — and any constituent company receives the same treatment,” Brooks said. “This is part of his job as an elected representative and what his constituents expect him to do.”

The committee said it will announce its next move with the review on Sept. 30. If the panel finds cause for a deeper probe, it would traditionally create a special subcommittee to look into whether Petri violated House rules and potentially recommend punishment.

Petri’s decision not to seek re-election came roughly one week after Wisconsin state Sen. Glenn Grothman said he would challenge the long-time lawmaker in the GOP primary.

Josh Hicks covers Maryland politics and government. He previously anchored the Post’s Federal Eye blog, focusing on federal accountability and workforce issues.

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