- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 22, 2010

The FBI is investigating the case of former Rep. Eric Massa, accused by his one-time male staff members of sexual harassment.

The attorney for a former Massa staff member said Wednesday she was contacted by the FBI. Lawyer Debra Katz said she was requested to preserve all documents that her client had in his possession involving the New York Democrat.

Miss Katz told the Associated Press that she thinks the FBI is interested in a $40,000 check from Mr. Massa’s campaign to his former chief of staff, Joe Racalto.

Meanwhile, the House ethics committee on Wednesday opened what it said will be “a full and complete investigation” into whether anyone covered up information that Mr. Massa sexually harassed male staff members.

The investigation will likely reach into the office of Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Mr. Massa’s chief of staff met with an aide in Mrs. Pelosi’s office in October - about five months before the New York Democrat resigned - to discuss Mr. Massa’s problems with employees.

Leadership aides have insisted that those discussions did not include the sexual harassment allegations.

Mr. Massa, 50, resigned from the House last month after the sexual harassment allegations surfaced. The ethics committee cannot investigate former members, but can look into what others did - or did not do - with knowledge of Mr. Massa’s conduct.

To emphasize the importance of the case, the four-member investigative subcommittee will be led by committee Chairman Zoe Lofgren, California Democrat, and ranking Republican Jo Bonner of Alabama.

The case has political importance this year, as Republicans have tried to make the ethical conduct of Democrats a campaign issue - turning the tables on an issue that Democrats used successfully against Republicans to win control of the House in 2006.

Rep. Charles B. Rangel, New York Democrat, stepped aside as chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee last month after the ethics panel admonished him for allowing corporate money to pay for two trips to Caribbean conferences.

Mrs. Pelosi’s office has acknowledged that Mr. Massa’s chief of staff, Mr. Racalto, met with Mrs. Pelosi’s staff member and discussed a news story in the then-congressman’s hometown paper. The news story described Mr. Massa’s living in a residence with aides on his staff. Mr. Racalto told the speaker’s office that he had told Mr. Massa, who is married, that he should move out. Mrs. Pelosi’s office said Mr. Racalto also discussed Mr. Massa’s use of strong language and the way he ran his office.

In February, the harassment allegations were brought to the attention of Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer, Maryland Democrat. Mr. Hoyer’s office demanded that the allegations be sent to the ethics committee.

The investigation will look into whether House members or employees:

c Had personal knowledge, or were made aware, of Mr. Massa’s conduct.

c Failed to properly report or fully disclose allegations of misconduct.

c Had a duty to pursue or call attention to the allegations.

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