House Ethics Committee Ends Investigation of Alcee Hastings

A congressman from the Sunshine State has been cleared in investigation by the U.S. House Ethics Committee over an alleged relationship with a staffer after revelations that he married her.

The committee announced back in November that it was looking at U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Fla., for his relationship with a staffer. Per the House code of conduct, members of the House are not permitted to be in relationships or engage in sexual relations with staffers unless they are married.

U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Fla., the chairman of the committee, and U.S. Rep. Kenny Marchant, R-Texas, who leads Republicans on the committee, weighed in on the matter through a joint statement in November, noting it had been investigating the matter since May.

“The committee is aware of public allegations arising out of Representative Alcee Hastings’ personal relationship with an individual employed in his congressional office.  On May 14, 2019, the committee, pursuant to Committee Rule 18(a), began an investigation regarding the allegations.  The committee is specifically considering whether Representative Hastings’ relationship with the individual employed in his congressional office is in violation of House Rule XXIII, clause 18(a), and whether Representative Hastings has received any improper gifts, including any forbearance, from that employee.  The committee continues to gather additional information regarding the allegations,” Deutch and Marchant said.

“The committee notes that the mere fact that it is investigating these allegations, and publicly disclosing its review, does not itself indicate that any violation has occurred, or reflect any judgment on behalf of the committee.  No other public comment will be made on this matter except in accordance with committee rules,” they added.

“I have cooperated with the committee since May 14, 2019. As they continue to conduct their work, I stand ready to fully cooperate with their inquiry,” said Hastings.

Last week, Deutch and Marchant noted that the committee had cleared Hastings.

“On May 14, 2019, the committee, pursuant to Committee Rule 18(a), began investigating allegations arising out of Representative Alcee Hastings’ personal relationship with an individual employed in his congressional office.  Specifically, the committee investigated whether Representative Hastings’ relationship with the employed individual is in violation of House Rule XXIII, clause 18(a), and whether Representative Hastings has received any improper gifts, including any forbearance, from that employee.  On November 14, 2019, the committee announced it was aware of public allegations arising out of Representative Hastings’ relationship, and that it was investigating and gathering more information regarding those allegations,” they said.

“During its review, the committee became aware that Representative Hastings has been married to the individual employed in his congressional office since January 2019.  Accordingly, Representative Hastings is not in violation of House Rule XXIII, clause 18(a), as its terms do not apply to relationships between two people who are married to each other, nor is he in violation of the House Gift Rule, which permits members to accept gifts from relatives.  However, the committee continued to review Representative Hastings’ conduct prior to his marriage.  The committee also considered whether Representative Hastings had complied with the laws and rules relating to nepotism,” they added. “Following its review, the committee determined to take no further action in this matter.  The committee’s determination was based on the particular facts of the matter, including the fact that Representative Hastings’ spouse’s employment began prior to the 113th Congress and is therefore not prohibited under clause 8(c) of House Rule XXIII.  The committee considers this matter closed.”

This is not the first time Hastings faced charges over ethics. Convicted and impeachment by Congress for accepting a bribe–becoming only the sixth federal judge in American history to be removed from the bench by Congress–Hastings bounced back to win a House seat in 1992. Since then, Hastings has easily defended his seat in a secure Democratic district. Hastings has handily kept his seat despite the Treasury Department being forced to pay out $220,000 to settle with a former staffer who accused the congressman of sexual harassment and being ranked by Judicial Watch as the number one member of Congress when it came to nepotism.

Hastings is one of the cochairmen of the Florida delegation and is the dean of it. In recent months, Hastings has also reeled in some major positions in the House. At the start of 2019, he was named the vice-chairman of the powerful U.S. House Rules Committee which determines what bills hit the House floor. Hastings also took over the U.S. House Legislative and Budget Process Subcommittee. Back in February 2019, U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., tapped Hastings to return as chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, better known as the Helsinki Commission. Hastings announced another plum assignment last year when U.S. House Majority Whip James Clyburn, D-SC, the third-ranking Democrat in the chamber, tapped the Florida congressman as a senior whip.

Now 83, Hastings announced last year that he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Despite that, Hastings is running for reelection in November and is considered a heavy favorite to win.

 

Reach Kevin Derby at kevin.derby@floridadaily.com.

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