- The Washington Times - Friday, June 1, 2001

The Justice Department has cleared U.S. Rep. James P. Moran, Virginia Democrat, of any wrongdoing in connection with his receiving a low-interest loan from health care lobbyist and friend Terry Lierman.
"This action means that, after reviewing the facts and documents in this matter, the Department is satisfied that there is no need to further investigate the parties or actions involved in the loan between Terry and me," Mr. Moran said in a written statement.
In June 1999, Mr. Moran accepted a $25,000 loan at 8 percent interest from his longtime friend Mr. Lierman, who also was trying to unseat Rep. Constance A. Morella, Maryland Republican, in last years 8th District House race in Montgomery County.
Mr. Moran has repaid the loan in full to Mr. Lierman, who at the time of the loan was lobbying Mr. Moran on behalf of the health care industry. Mr. Moran later voted for a bill for which Mr. Lierman was lobbying.
Justice Department spokeswoman Susan Dryden confirmed that the agency had closed the investigation.
The Congressional Accountability Project (CAP), founded by Ralph Nader, asked the Justice Department, as well as the House Standards of Official Conduct Committee, to look into the matter. Congressional sources said Mr. Moran has cooperated with the ethics committee.
The Federal Elections Commission (FEC) also began investigating the loan after the National Legal and Policy Center filed complaints saying Mr. Moran had not accurately reported the loan as part of his financial disclosure forms as a candidate for Congress.
"They have submitted a number of questions that he has responded to," one House aide said of congressional investigators.
Gary Ruskin, CAPs executive director, said the federal bribery and illegal gratuities laws cited in CAPs complaint "are so weak and unenforceable that they are practically nonexistent."
The Justice Department probe was dropped, sources said, because it would have been nearly impossible to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Mr. Moran had taken the loan as a bribe.
Mr. Moran, 56, is no stranger to ethics problems. In 1984, he was forced to resign as vice mayor of Alexandria for illegally accepting a loan. He later became mayor.
In his tersely worded statement, Mr. Moran defended himself against the charge that the Lierman loan affected his vote on the health care matter.
"The loan from Terry never influenced my work or official actions in Congress. Never," Mr. Moran said. "From the beginning, I said that Terrys loan was nothing more than one friend helping another friend during a very difficult divorce."
In a telephone interview from London, Mr. Lierman said he was "delighted" the Justice Department had dropped the matter. "This was just a matter of a friend helping a friend," Mr. Lierman said. "It is time to look ahead."
Ken Boehm, chairman of the National Legal and Policy Center, said Mr. Moran is still in the wrong for accepting the loan. Mr. Boehms group has filed complaints saying the loan violated FEC rules because it was, among other things, above the maximum $1,000 Mr. Moran could have received.
Another complaint states that Mr. Moran failed to list the loan in a May 15 filing with the House, as required by the Ethics in Government Act.


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