- Associated Press - Thursday, November 12, 2015

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - Republican U.S. Rep. Robert Pittenger asked the House Ethics Committee on Thursday to investigate his relationship to the real estate company he founded but left after he won his congressional seat.

The second-term congressman - whose district includes suburbs around Charlotte, North Carolina - released a statement saying he’s seeking the investigation to show that he’s complied with the law and House rules.

“My objective is to address these issues directly and confirm that I have always acted properly and in full respect for the law and House Ethics rules,” Pittenger said.

Pittenger said in August that FBI agents spoke to employees at Pittenger Land Investments and requested information earlier this year. He said at the time that he didn’t know what they were investigating but that the company was cooperating.

“I’m not the least bit concerned about whatever they are requesting,” Pittenger said in an interview at the time.

Pittenger said he cut ties with the company right after he was elected to the U.S. House in 2012. His wife continued to run the company after he left.

His news release said the congressman has frequently sought guidance on his role with the family company from the Ethics Committee’s staff to ensure he complied with the law.

House rules generally prohibit paid work in fiduciary services such as accounting, real estate or the law. The rules make some exceptions for relationships with family-owned businesses.

The Ethics Committee has the power to investigate whether members of Congress have broken its rules or laws related to their official duties. It can initiate disciplinary action or turn over evidence to law enforcement agencies.

Jamie Bowers, a spokesman for Pittenger, said the congressman wasn’t available to discuss the case Thursday. Bowers declined to answer questions about the company.

Charlotte-based FBI spokeswoman Shelley Lynch said she couldn’t comment.

Information on Pittenger Land Investments’ website retrieved in August said it had acquired more than $250 million in undeveloped land in Charlotte; Austin, Texas; Tennessee; and along the South Carolina coast by shrewdly determining where the population was going to grow. A company brochure said it has given annual average returns of 18 percent to its investors. The website appeared to be down on Thursday.

At least three other House members have requested ethics investigations of themselves in the past decade.

Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., asked for an investigation after accusations surfaced including failure to pay taxes on income from a vacation villa and filing misleading public financial reports. In 2010, the House censured Rangel - the most serious punishment short of expulsion.

Rep. Don Young asked for an investigation after he was accused of using campaign funds for personal trips and accepting improper gifts. The House Ethics Committee found in 2014 that Young, an Alaska Republican, violated House rules and ordered him to repay about $59,000.

Former Rep. Spencer Bachus, R-Ala., said he was cleared in 2012 after an investigation of his investment activities leading up to and surrounding Congress’ 2008 Wall Street bailout.

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Associated Press writer Matthew Daly in Washington contributed to this report.

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