18-Term Congressman Faces Ethics Probe

MADISON, Wisc. (CN) – Eighteen-term Republican Congressman Tom Petri faces an ethics investigation seeking to know whether he acted repeatedly on behalf of two Wisconsin companies in which he owns at least $250,000 in stock.
     Petri, who is retiring after 18 terms in the House, advocated on behalf of defense contractor Oshkosh Corp. to help it win a $3 billion Pentagon contract to make tactical vehicles.
     He also contacted the Environmental Protection Agency in support of Manitowoc, asking the agency to grant the company a hardship exemption so it could continue using its crane fleet, because switching to more environmentally friendly machines would allegedly force the company to cut jobs.
     Petri’s attorneys, in a 141-page letter to the House Committee on Ethics, claimed that Petri “made a good faith effort to comply fully with both the letter and spirit of the rules and guidelines his staff received.”
     But in a 546-page Office of Congressional Ethics report of the investigation , released Tuesday, the House Ethics Committee suggests further inquiry into the matter.
     Petri claims he sent letters of support to the Defense Department and EPA to create or preserve jobs in his district, where Oshkosh employs more 3,000 people and Manitowoc employs several hundred.
     He claims he consulted with the House Ethics Committee several times before making statements in support of Oshkosh’s bid.
     “There is no dispute Mr. Petri took officials acts on behalf of constituents that are among the largest employers in his district, including Oshkosh Corporation and Manitowoc Company, and that he purchased stock in both companies beginning in 2006. Nor is there any dispute that his support for both companies began years before he invested in them – decades before, in the case of Oshkosh. Yet when he did buy their stock, he demonstrated the ‘added circumspection’ this Committee says it expects of members by seeking its advice,” Petri said in his response to the OCE report.
     The House Ethics Committee wrote in a Sept. 30 letter that it “will refrain from making further public statements on this matter pending completion of its initial review.”

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