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Ethics Panel Finds Shelley Berkley Violated House Rules

Democratic Representative Shelley Berkley of Nevada violated U.S. House rules “by improperly using her official position” to aid help her husband’s kidney dialysis business, the Ethics Committee said yesterday.

The committee considers the matter closed and didn’t punish Berkley, saying “no further action is necessary,” according to a statement from the House panel.

Berkley, 61, didn’t seek re-election to her House seat this year, instead running for the Senate. She lost in the Nov. 6 election to Republican incumbent Dean Heller, 46 percent to 45 percent, in a race in which the ethics issue figured prominently.

The House committee’s investigation followed a September 2011 report by the New York Times that said Berkley led efforts to reverse a decision by government regulators to shut a kidney transplant program at a Nevada medical center where her husband’s medical practice had a $738,000 contract.

Berkley also pressured regulators to reverse plans to cut Medicare reimbursement rates for kidney dialysis. That service is among those provided by clinics run by a medical practice that includes her husband, Dr. Larry Lehrner, according to the Times report.

In closing the case, the ethics committee said it found no evidence that Berkley had “acted with the intent to enrich herself.”

Berkley was first elected to her House seat in 1998.

Meeks Case

The ethics panel also yesterday dropped its investigation of whether a loan to Representative Gregory Meeks, a New York Democrat, was actually an “impermissible gift,” citing a lack of documentation.

Meeks, 59, said in a sworn statement that while he had signed paperwork for the 2007 loan from Edul Ahmad, to be repaid at an interest rate of 12.5 percent, he couldn’t produce the transaction’s documents because he had misplaced them. He also said he repaid the loan in June 2010.

The committee was unable to interview Ahmad, who has pleaded guilty to fraud charges in an unrelated federal criminal case. Through his lawyer, Ahmad said he wouldn’t appear before the committee voluntarily and that if he were subpoenaed, he would invoke his Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination unless granted immunity from prosecution.

The panel determined that while Meeks had failed to disclose the loan as a liability on three years of financial disclosures, it had “found no credible evidence that the errors were knowing or willful.” Meeks has since corrected the errors in subsequent disclosures.

The committee also said it would take no action on a public intoxication charge filed in August in Virginia against Representative Tim Ryan, an Ohio Democrat. Ryan, 39, was found not guilty of the charge earlier this month.

Further review of the matter is “not required,” the committee said in a report to the House, because the panel “believes that the handling of this matter by local authorities is sufficient.”

Meeks and Ryan both won re-election last month.

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