Rep. Shelley Berkley faces ethics probe

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Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-NV) visits with constituents during a 'Congress on the Corner' event at Berkley's district office January 14, 2011 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
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(CBS News) Rep. Shelley Berkley, a Nevada congresswoman and Democratic Senate candidate, is under investigation by the House Ethics Committee over possible wrongdoing with respect to "alleged communications and activities with or on behalf of entities in which Rep. Berkley's husband had a financial interest," the committee announced Monday night.

At issue is whether or not Berkley, in a series of actions over the last several years, used her official position to benefit her family financially. Among those actions under scrutiny include when she led a successful charge to keep open a kidney transplant facility with which her husband had a contract, and when she pushed the Ways and Means Committee chairman not to slash reimbursement rates for doctors who provide dialysis to Medicare patients.

According to the New York Times, Berkley's husband, Dr. Larry Lehrner, operates a number of dialysis centers throughout Nevada and has been pivotal in lobbying Congress members such as his wife on behalf of kidney care providers.

Berkley, meanwhile, is engaged in a closely-watched Senate battle against Nevada incumbent Sen. Dean Heller, a Republican who was appointed after two-term Republican John Ensign resigned in the wake of an ethics scandal of his own.

Jessica Mackler, Berkley's campaign manager, said in a statement that the campaign was "pleased with the committee's decision to conduct a full and fair investigation" and "confident" that her name would be cleared.

"We are pleased with the committee's decision to conduct a full and fair investigation, which will ensure all the facts are reviewed," Berkley said. "We are confident that ultimately it will be clear that Congresswoman Berkley's one and only concern was for the health and well being of Nevada's patients."

"That's why she joined then Republican Congressman Dean Heller to prevent Nevada's only kidney transplant program from being shut down by Washington bureaucrats," Mackler said. "With more than 200 Nevada patients desperately waiting for a lifesaving kidney transplant, it would have been irresponsible of her not to work with the state's entire congressional delegation to protect the program."

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