House Ethics Committee To Investigate Fossella

The House ethics committee announced today that it will investigate the circumstances surrounding Rep. Vito Fossella's (RN.Y.) drunk-driving arrest on May 1, but not until after the legal case involving Fossella is finished.

A special, four-member investigative subcommittee chaired by Rep. Michael Doyle (D-Pa.) will handle the probe. GOP Rep. J. Gresham Barrett (R-S.C.) will serve as ranking member. Reps. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) and Rob Bishop (R-Utah) will make up the remainder of the investigative panel.

But no investigation will actually begin until after Fossella's legal case is completed. A trial on the misdemeanor DUI charge is scheduled for June 26 in Alexandria, Va. Fossella could receive as much five days in jail under Virginia law for the misdemeanor charge. New ethics rules require the committee to investigate any arrest of a lawmaker.

That decision brought criticism from Citizens for Responsibilty and Ethics in Washington, a liberal watchdog group, which had urged the panel to investigate Fossella.

"The Ethics Committee deferred an investigation of Vito Fossella? We are shocked, shocked, shocked. The only thing more shocking would be if the committee decided to investigate anything…ever," said Melanie Sloan, CREW's executive director.

The investigative panel could potentially look into other allegations against Fossella. The New York Republican, who announced that he would retire at the end of the 110th Congress, has admitted that he fathered an out-of-wedlock child with Laura Fay, a retired former Air Force officer. Fay served as an Air Force liaison to the House, and she and Fossella met during a congressional delegation trip to Europe. Media reports have stated that Fay and Fossella went alone on a taxpayer-funded trip to France in early 2003.