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House Ethics Panel Drops Probe of Reed

11:48 PM, Oct 30, 2013   |    comments
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By Brian Tumulty
Gannett Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON - The Office of Congressional Ethics has dropped it preliminary investigation into Republican Rep. Tom Reed's use of campaign funds to pay property taxes on his vacation house.

Reed's campaign released a letter Wednesday notifying him of the "termination of a preliminary review'' signed by Omar Ashmawy, staff director and general counsel to the committee.

"The board greatly appreciated your cooperation in this matter,'' Ashmawy stated in the letter dated Oct. 25.

The committee's decision to drop the case was first reported Tuesday night by the Buffalo News.

"We are pleased that the Office of Congressional Ethics so quickly dismissed this matter," Reed's campaign spokesman, Seth Wimer, said. "The congressman is committed to transparency and accountability and he will continue to be accessible to his constituents.''

The preliminary review was launched as a result of a complaint filed in mid-September by John Hurley, chairman of the Ontario County Democratic Party. Hurley, who said Reed's error shows "a lack of discipline and a lack of personal responsibility,'' also filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission.

The FEC does not comment on complaints. Kelly Brewington, spokeswoman for the Office of Congressional Ethics, said the panel does not comment on any cases that are dropped.

Reed, a former mayor of Corning, used a campaign check to pay $4,247.83 in property taxes on his vacation home along Lake Keuka in Pulteney in April 2012. He has described the payment as "an unfortunate clerical error'' that occurred because his personal checkbook and the campaign checkbook were in the same folder, "and they looked exactly the same.''

Reed corrected the mistake a month later by repaying the full amount to his campaign using his personal funds.

His campaign publicly disclosed the mistake last June in a campaign finance report that listed an "inadvert. disb. Cty. Treas.,'' which refers to "inadvertent disbursement to the county treasurer.''

The campaign also filed a memo in the report explaining that "a campaign check (which was similar in appearance to a personal check) was mistakenly written to pay a $4,247.83 tax bill.''

The memo also stated, "Immediately upon discovery of the mistake, and within the same reporting period, the candidate reimbursed the campaign the same amount.''

The repayment dated May 22 was listed as a contribution by Reed to his own campaign in the receipts section of the report, but on a summary sheet it was listed as "other receipts'' and not listed as coming from the candidate himself.

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