By LARRY MARGASAK, Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) — The chairman of the House Financial Services Committee said Monday he's been cleared by an ethics panel that investigated his investment activities leading up to and surrounding Congress' $700 billion bailout of Wall Street.
Rep. Spencer Bachus, R-Ala., said the Office of Congressional Ethics voted 6-0 on Friday to dismiss allegations that he profited from nonpublic information learned on the job. The OCE is a House panel run by a board that does not include current members of Congress. The committee does not announce decisions immediately.
Congress, faced with low approval ratings in an election year, acted in March to approve legislation explicitly banning lawmakers, the president and thousands of other federal workers from profiting from nonpublic information learned during their official duties. The bill, which is now law, also will let the public see more of government officials' financial dealings, and view them online more frequently.
Bachus, a 10-term House member, easily won his March primary. He had confirmed he was under investigation in February, a day after the House passed its version of the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge legislation, known as the STOCK Act.
Bachus has been the financial services panel's chairman since January 2011 when Republicans retook control of the House. Before that, as the committee's senior GOP member, he participated in closed-door briefings in September 2008 by Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and then-Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson warning that Wall Street and the economy were in danger of a complete meltdown.
A 2008 Fidelity investment statement attached to Bachus' annual financial disclosure form for that year shows that he was an especially active trader in September and October 2008 with more than three dozen buy-and-sell orders. On some he made money but, totaled up, he suffered a net loss of $19,490 for the two months.
Bachus said in a statement, "The OCE's unanimous dismissal of these false allegations is a welcome conclusion to a destructive and disruptive, media-generated assault. It has been a long, painful, and frustrating experience to have a reputation built over many years sullied by untrue accusations."
The lawmaker said two former chairmen of the Securities and Exchange Commission and a former federal judge had reviewed the allegations and determined they had no merit.
He added: "Perhaps the most gratifying aspect is that my constituents who know me best recently reaffirmed their faith in my character and my ability to serve their interests, and my personal commitment to them is to continue to serve with the highest level of effectiveness and accountability."
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