House Ethics Committee admonishes Rep. Berkley
Nevada Democratic Rep. Shelley Berkley's use of her office to benefit her husband's medical practice violated House rules and the government's code of conduct, the House Ethics Committee ruled on Thursday.
Berkley was not disciplined due to her cooperation with the committee's investigation, which concluded that she had erred by allowing her office to serve as a go-between for her husband's practice and several federal health care programs, but that she did not attempt to enrich herself in the process.
The investigation, which had cast a pall over Berkley's unsuccessful race to unseat Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., focused on allegations that Berkley's husband, Dr. Lawrence Lehrner, had contacted Berkley's congressional office to complain about unreceived payments from the Department of Veterans Affairs, Medicare, and Medicaid.
Lehrner's practice, Kidney Specialists of Southern Nevada, referred to specific dollar amounts that Lehrner alleged were owed to his practice by those agencies.
The committee ruled that "Representative Berkley and her staff took actions in response to these issues to assist in KSSN obtaining payment," noting that the actions were in violation of ethics rules because they benefited her and could be interpreted as influencing her job as an elected official.
The committee did note that Berkley's motivation was benign, even if her actions ran afoul of ethics standards, arguing that the delayed payments from government agencies were a legitimate issue that appeared "to have been motivated by factors wholly divorced from her family's financial well-being."
Despite the ruling against her, Berkley issued a statement Thursday night arguing that she acted solely on behalf of her constituents, arguing, "The committee's findings on this issue show I acted only in the interest of protecting Nevada veterans who needed this critical Kidney care."
Berkley will retire from Congress in January.
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