If you work in Washington long enough, there are some things you get used to. One of them is the tradition of burying news by releasing it on a Friday afternoon. Or even better: on Christmas Eve. That’s when the House Ethics Committee quietly announced the launch of an ethics probe into California Congressman Fortney ‘Pete’ Stark:
The Chair and Ranking Republican Member of the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct (the Committee) have jointly decided to extend a matter regarding Representative Pete Stark, which was transmitted to the Committee by the Office of Congressional Ethics, for a 45-day period… The Committee will announced its course of action in this matter on or before February 10, 2010.
The substance of the referral from the OCE has not been publicly disclosed, but presumably it relates to that office’s publicly-reported review of Stark’s tax records. In particular, the Ethics Office had looked into Stark’s claim that his Maryland home is his ‘primary residence’ for tax purposes. It has been reported that several Members of Congress faced similar inquiries. They include Doris Matsui (D-CA), Eliot Engel (D-NY), and Ed Towns (D-NY). It remains to be seen whether the Committee will launch similar inquiries into the tax forms of these other Members, or whether Stark has done something that sets him apart from these others.