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113th Congress                                                   Report
                        HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
 1st Session                                                    113-176
_______________________________________________________________________

                                     

                                                  House Calendar No. 48

 
 IN THE MATTER OF ALLEGATIONS RELATING TO STAFF TRAVEL PROVIDED BY THE 
              TURKISH COALITION OF AMERICA IN AUGUST 2008

                               ----------                              

                              R E P O R T

                                 of the

                          COMMITTEE ON ETHICS




   July 26, 2013.--Referred to the House Calendar and ordered to be 
                                printed


 IN THE MATTER OF ALLEGATIONS RELATING TO STAFF TRAVEL PROVIDED BY THE 
              TURKISH COALITION OF AMERICA IN AUGUST 2008


113th Congress 
 1st Session            HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES                 Report
                                                                113-176
_______________________________________________________________________

                                     

                                                  House Calendar No. 48


 IN THE MATTER OF ALLEGATIONS RELATING TO STAFF TRAVEL PROVIDED BY THE 
              TURKISH COALITION OF AMERICA IN AUGUST 2008

                               __________

                              R E P O R T

                                 of the

                          COMMITTEE ON ETHICS




   July 26, 2013.--Referred to the House Calendar and ordered to be 
                                printed
                          COMMITTEE ON ETHICS

K. MICHAEL CONAWAY, Texas            LINDA T. SANCHEZ, California
  Chairman                             Ranking Member
CHARLES W. DENT, Pennsylvania        PEDRO R. PIERLUISI, Puerto Rico
PATRICK MEEHAN, Pennsylvania         MICHAEL E. CAPUANO, Massachusetts
TREY GOWDY, South Carolina           YVETTE D. CLARKE, New York
SUSAN W. BROOKS, Indiana             TED DEUTCH, Florida

                              Report Staff

            Daniel A. Schwager, Chief Counsel/Staff Director
           Thomas A. Rust, Acting Director of Investigations
                 Jackie M. Barber, Counsel to Chairman
            Daniel J. Taylor, Counsel to the Ranking Member
               Clifford C. Stoddard, Jr., Senior Counsel
                Brittany M. Bohren, Investigative Clerk


                         LETTER OF TRANSMITTAL

                              ----------                              

                          House of Representatives,
                                       Committee on Ethics,
                                     Washington, DC, July 26, 2013.
Hon. Karen L. Haas,
Clerk, House of Representatives,
Washington, DC.
    Dear Ms. Haas: Pursuant to clauses 3(a)(2) and 3(b) of rule 
XI of the Rules of the House of Representatives, we herewith 
transmit the attached report, ``In the Matter of Allegations 
Relating to Staff Travel Provided by the Turkish Coalition of 
America in August 2008.''
            Sincerely,
                                        K. Michael Conaway,
                                                          Chairman.
                                          Linda T. Sanchez,
                                                    Ranking Member.


                            C O N T E N T S

                              ----------                              
                                                                   Page
 I. Introduction......................................................1
II. House Rules, Laws, Regulations, or Other Standards of Conduct.....2
III.Background........................................................2

IV. Conclusion........................................................6
 V. Statement Under Rule XIII, Clause 3(c) of the Rules of the House of 
    Representatives...................................................7
Appendix A: Report and Findings of the Office of Congressional 
  Ethics (Review No. 13-5845)....................................     8
Appendix B: Report and Findings of the Office of Congressional 
  Ethics (Review No. 13-6123)....................................   175
Appendix C: Subject Response to the Report and Findings of the 
  Office of Congressional Ethics (Review No. 13-6123)............   340


113th Congress                                                   Report
                        HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
 1st Session                                                    113-176

======================================================================




 IN THE MATTER OF ALLEGATIONS RELATING TO STAFF TRAVEL PROVIDED BY THE 
              TURKISH COALITION OF AMERICA IN AUGUST 2008

                                _______
                                

   July 26, 2013.--Referred to the House Calendar and ordered to be 
                                printed

                                _______
                                

              Mr. Conaway, from the Committee on Ethics, 
                        submitted the following

                              R E P O R T

                            I. INTRODUCTION

    Beginning in the last Congress, the Committee on Ethics 
(Committee) undertook a review of a multi-day, privately-
sponsored trip to Turkey in August 2008 that was paid for, in 
part, by the Turkish Coalition of America (TCA). Five House 
employees sought and received Committee approval to participate 
in the trip. However, the Committee later learned that at the 
time of the travel, TCA employed or retained a federally-
registered lobbyist, making it ineligible to sponsor a multi-
day trip under the House's privately-sponsored travel rules.
    The Committee's review found that the employees who 
traveled acted in good faith, relied on the Committee's review 
and approval of the trip, and had no knowledge that TCA 
employed or retained a lobbyist. The Committee determined that 
no investigation or further action was necessary. After 
concluding its review, the Committee received three referrals 
from the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) regarding the 
same matter on June 13, 2013. In its referrals, OCE also 
determined that the employees acted in good faith, were not 
aware that TCA employed a lobbyist, and thus did not knowingly 
accept an impermissible gift.
    Accordingly, after careful consideration, the Committee has 
unanimously voted to dismiss the matters referred by OCE, 
determined that no further action is required, and agreed to 
end its review of this matter with the publication of this 
Report, which includes the materials referred to the Committee 
by the OCE.

   II. HOUSE RULES, LAWS, REGULATIONS, OR OTHER STANDARDS OF CONDUCT

    House Rule XXV, clause 5 (the Gift Rule), permits Members 
and staff to accept travel paid for by a private source under 
certain circumstances and only after pre-approval by the 
Committee.\1\ The rule provides that if the traveler receives 
advance authorization from the Committee, the necessary travel 
costs ``shall be considered a reimbursement to the House and 
not a gift prohibited by'' the Gift Rule.\2\ One of the 
restrictions to the acceptance of such travel is that 
federally-registered lobbyists or registered foreign agents are 
banned from being involved in the planning, organizing, 
requesting, or arranging of most trips.\3\ Additionally, travel 
paid for by private sponsors who retain or employ lobbyists is 
limited to one day of officially-connected activity.\4\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \1\House Rule XXV, clause 5(d)(2). See also, House Ethics Manual 
(2008) at 89.
    \2\House Rule XXV, clause 5(b)(1)(A) and (C).
    \3\House Rule XXV, clause 5(c)(2). See also, House Ethics Manual 
(2008) at 89.
    \4\House Rule XXV, clause 5(b)(1)(C)(ii). See also, House Ethics 
Manual (2008) at 89.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    House Rule XXIV prohibits a Member, Delegate, or Resident 
Commissioner from maintaining an unofficial office account. 
This prohibition applies to accounts maintained by third 
parties for a Member's benefit, even if they are not maintained 
for the Member's direct use. It further extends to any process 
whereby funds are received or expended regardless of whether an 
actual account or repository is maintained.\5\ Thus, private, 
in-kind contribution of goods or services for official purposes 
are banned under House Rule XXIV.\6\ However, one exception to 
this rule allows Members to use funds from their principal 
campaign accounts for official expenses with some restrictions. 
For example, expenses for officially-connected travel may be 
reimbursed out of the principal campaign account and not 
violate the unofficial office account prohibition. 
Additionally, a Member may use personal funds to pay any 
official expenses.\7\ However, House employees may not 
reimburse official expenses from their own funds. For this 
reason, although Members may repay the costs for privately-
sponsored travel out of their personal or campaign funds, were 
employees to do so, they might run afoul of House Rule XXIV.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \5\House Ethics Manual at 328.
    \6\Id. at 328.
    \7\Id. at 329.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    When a Member or employee receives a gift that is 
unacceptable under the gift rule, and for which a gift waiver 
is not available, the recipient generally must either return 
the gift or pay the market value of the gift.\8\ In a case 
where travel was an impermissible gift, the Committee has 
traditionally requested the recipients pay back the cost of the 
travel to the original sponsors or to the United States 
Treasury if the sponsors could not be specifically 
identified.\9\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \8\House Ethics Manual at 73.
    \9\See Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, In the Matter of 
the Investigation into Officially Connected Travel of House Members to 
Attend the Carib News Foundation Multinational Business Conferences in 
2007 and 2008, H. Rpt. 111-422, 111th Congress (February 25, 2010).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

                            III. BACKGROUND


                         A. COMMITTEE PRACTICE

    In 2007, the House Rules were amended to require House 
Members and employees to seek prior written approval of the 
Committee before accepting travel paid for by a private source, 
and the Committee adopted regulations to implement this new 
requirement. Pursuant to those rules and regulations, the 
Committee has conducted a thorough review of each proposed 
privately-sponsored trip. Committee staff recommends changes 
where necessary to bring trips into compliance with relevant 
laws, rules, or regulations and, on occasion, informs House 
Members and employees that a proposed trip is not 
permissible.\10\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \10\The time-consuming nature of this thorough review is one of the 
reasons the Committee found it necessary at the end of the 112th 
Congress to amend the travel regulations to push back the deadline for 
submission of privately-sponsored travel forms to the Committee from 14 
days before the trip to 30 days before the trip.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    In 2008, the Committee's practice for multi-sponsor trips 
was to require only one private sponsor of a trip, not all 
private sponsors, to sign and complete the Sponsor Form. The 
Committee has since changed its policy to now require all 
sponsors of a multi-sponsor trip to complete and sign the 
Sponsor Form in most cases. A private sponsor is required to 
complete a Private Sponsor Travel Certification Form and must 
certify that the information on the form is true, complete, and 
correct to the best of their knowledge. The Committee was 
relying on the representations made on the travel forms as 
certified by the trip sponsor. At the time of this trip, just 
over one year after the mandatory approval process began, the 
Committee did not independently verify a sponsor's assertion 
that it did or did not retain or employ a federally-registered 
lobbyist or registered foreign agent.
    Since that time, as the Committee has seen various concerns 
arise, such inquiries, and other similar extra steps, have 
become a regular part of the Committee's review of privately-
sponsored travel. These changes to the Committee's process for 
review of privately-sponsored travel reflect the Committee's 
constant effort to improve its work and better serve the House 
community and the public. The Committee recognizes both the 
significant benefit the public receives when their 
Representatives and their Representatives' staff receive hands-
on education and experience, as well as the mandate that 
outside groups be appropriately limited in what gifts and 
support they are allowed to provide to Members of Congress and 
congressional staff.

                          B. COMMITTEE REVIEW

    The Committee found that five House employees participated 
in a privately-sponsored, officially connected trip to Turkey 
from August 2, 2008, through August 8, 2008.\11\ The trip was 
sponsored by the American Turkish Coalition (ATC) and TCA. At 
the time of the trip, TCA employed or retained a federally-
registered lobbyist, but ATC did not. Under the privately-
sponsored travel rules and regulations, entities that employ or 
retain lobbyists may sponsor travel for House Members and 
employees, but such travel may only be for a one-day trip.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \11\Of the five employees who attended the trip, two had left their 
employment with the House before OCE began its review. A third employee 
was employed during the OCE review, but informed OCE that he would be 
leaving his House employment before OCE voted on that employee's 
referral. However, he apparently did not provide written confirmation 
of his impending departure to OCE. That employee left the House on June 
1, 2013, one day after OCE voted to refer the matter to the Committee. 
Because House Rules appear to intend that the Committee only be 
required to publish referrals if the subject is a Member, officer, or 
employee of the House on the day of (or at least the day before) the 
publication deadline, the Committee is not releasing the report of the 
third subject of OCE's referral at this time. See House Rule XI clause 
3(b)(8)(A)(ii). However, the Committee concluded that the facts 
regarding that individual's travel were indistinguishable from the 
other two House employees, and that it would have dismissed that 
referral had he remained within the Committee's jurisdiction.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Prior to participating in the trip, the five House 
employees sought and received the Committee's approval of the 
trip.\12\ Following the Committee's privately-sponsored travel 
regulations, the employees each submitted to the Committee both 
the Privately Sponsored Travel: Traveler Form (Traveler Form) 
and the Private Sponsor Travel Certification Form (Sponsor 
Form). While the Sponsor Form, which was prepared by ATC, 
correctly identified both ATC and TCA as sponsors of the trip, 
only ATC completed the Sponsor Form. Thus, when ATC responded 
to question 9 on the Sponsor Form by indicating that ``[t]he 
sponsor of the trip does not retain or employ a federally 
registered lobbyist or registered foreign agent,'' this 
statement was correct for ATC, but it was not true of TCA.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \12\As of July 2013, only two of the travelers on this trip are 
still employees of the House, and only one of those travelers still 
works for the same employing Member. The employing Members at the time 
of travel for the other employees are no longer Members of the House.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Because the Committee was not aware that TCA employed or 
retained a lobbyist at the time of the trip, and all other 
information reflected that the trip was permissible, the 
Committee granted approval to all travelers who had sought to 
attend the trip. There is no indication that any of the 
travelers knew or had reason to know that TCA employed or 
retained a lobbyist.

                            C. OCE REFERRAL

    As noted above, the OCE also reviewed three employees' 
acceptance of the 2008 trip to Turkey. On June 13, 2013, the 
OCE sent three referrals to the Committee recommending further 
review of allegations regarding two current House employees and 
one former House employee who participated in the 2008 trip to 
Turkey that was paid for in part by TCA. Consistent with the 
Committee's findings, the OCE determined that there was no 
evidence that any of the House employees knew that TCA retained 
a lobbyist at the time of the trip. Instead, the OCE found that 
all three travelers relied on ATC's ``pre-travel disclosure 
form'' in ``good faith.'' The OCE also found that TCA only 
learned of the potential House rule violation after the August 
2008 trip, and that, when TCA became aware of the change in the 
House Rules regarding sponsorship of privately-sponsored travel 
by entities that employ or retain lobbyists, TCA terminated its 
relationship with its lobbyist and contacted Committee staff to 
receive advice about how to address the August 2008 trip. TCA 
told the OCE that Committee staff informed TCA that they would 
get back to TCA about the issue but never did. The Committee 
has no record of any such communications with TCA.
    Despite the lack of evidence of wrongdoing, OCE referred 
the matter to the Committee with a recommendation for further 
review because ``pursuant to precedent of the Committee on 
Ethics, a person's ignorance of the true source of travel 
expenses is not an absolute shield from liability for receipt 
of travel expenses from an improper source.'' While this is a 
true statement, such precedents are distinguishable from this 
case for several reasons.

                         D. RELEVANT PRECEDENT

    The most significant Committee precedent holding that a 
traveler may need to repay privately-sponsored travel from an 
improper source is the Committee's investigation and conclusion 
in the ``Carib News'' matter.\13\ In the Carib News matter, the 
travel did not conform to the facts addressed in the 
Committee's approval, because there were numerous unnamed 
sponsors of the trip. In addition, the Committee concluded that 
individuals associated with the sponsor made false statements 
to the Committee. (Ultimately, the Department of Justice 
obtained a conviction against the signator of the Sponsor Form 
for false statements to the Committee about that trip.) Still, 
despite the Committee's finding that all but one of the 
travelers in that case had no reason to be aware of the false 
information, the Committee did determine that the travelers all 
needed to refund to the Treasury the cost of the impermissible 
trip.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \13\See Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, In the Matter 
of the Investigation into Officially Connected Travel of House Members 
to Attend the Carib News Foundation Multinational Business Conferences 
in 2007 and 2008, H. Rpt. 111-422, 111th Congress (February 25, 2010).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    The Committee's determination in the Carib News matter that 
House travelers needed to refund the costs of the trip, 
however, was based to a large extent on the fact that two of 
the improper trip sponsors were foreign governments. The U.S. 
Constitution prohibits federal government officials from 
receiving ``any present . . . of any kind whatever'' from a 
foreign state or representative of a foreign state without the 
consent of Congress. Congress has primarily consented through 
two statutes, the Foreign Gifts and Decoration Act and the 
Mutual Educational and Cultural Exchange Act, but neither 
statute applied to the circumstances of that matter and the 
Committee does not have the discretion to waive this 
constitutional prohibition. Thus, the Committee requested that 
the travelers in the Carib News matter repay the costs of the 
trip, largely to keep them from being in violation of the U.S. 
Constitution.
    Another important distinction between this matter and the 
Carib News matter is that the travelers in Carib News were 
Members, whereas the travelers in this case were all staffers. 
House Rule XXV provides that if a traveler receives advance 
authorization from the Committee to accept privately sponsored 
travel, the necessary travel costs ``shall be considered a 
reimbursement to the House and not a gift prohibited by'' the 
House Gift Rule. For this reason, any reimbursement of 
privately-sponsored travel costs would be considered a gift to 
the House. Such support by an employee for official activities 
of the employing Member could potentially run afoul of House 
Rule XXIV, which generally prohibits outside or staff financial 
support for official activities. Thus, while the use of a 
Member's own personal funds to supplement the work of the House 
does not violate House Rule XXIV, the use of staff funds to do 
so would. For this reason, Members may repay the costs for 
privately-sponsored travel out of their personal funds, but 
were employees to do so, they might run afoul of House Rule 
XXIV. Therefore, when a House employee participates in an 
improper trip, it is generally the employing Member at the time 
of the trip that is asked to refund the improper gift.

                             IV. CONCLUSION

    Only two of the travelers on this trip are still employees 
of the House, and only one of those travelers still works for 
the same employing Member. The employing Members at the time of 
travel for the other employees are no longer Members of the 
House, and thus, are outside of the Committee's jurisdiction. 
Therefore, were the Committee to require refunding the cost of 
this trip, only one of five applicable Members would be 
required to produce the funds. To be clear, nothing in either 
the Committee's review or OCE's three referrals suggested that 
any Member acted improperly or inadvertently violated any House 
Rule.
    While TCA should not have been permitted to sponsor a trip 
of this length while they retained a lobbyist, because the 
House employees made a good faith effort to comply with the 
travel regulations and neither the other sponsor nor the House 
employees knowingly submitted misleading travel approval forms, 
the Committee has determined that the employees may rely on the 
Committee's pre-travel approval and that they did not 
themselves violate any House Rules, laws, or regulations. 
Further, because there is no prohibition on the trip that is 
outside of the Committee's discretion to waive, the Committee 
has determined to waive the gift rule in this unique 
circumstance and not require the one remaining Member to refund 
the cost of the trip to Turkey.
    Finally, while TCA should not have sponsored the trip, they 
did not themselves make any false statements to the Committee. 
The Committee can neither confirm nor dispute that TCA made 
efforts to self-report and remedy their violation when they 
discovered it. TCA did indeed terminate their relationship with 
a registered lobbyist effective December 31, 2008. For all 
these reasons, the Committee will take no further action 
regarding TCA with respect to the August 2008 trip.
    For all these reasons, and after careful consideration, the 
Committee has unanimously voted to dismiss the matters referred 
by OCE, determined that no further action is required, and 
agreed to end its review of this matter with the publication of 
this Report.
    Pursuant to House Rule XI, clause 3(b)(8)(A) and Committee 
Rules 17A(c)(2), the Committee hereby publishes the OCE's 
Report and Findings related to the allegations that the two 
current House employees participated in a privately-sponsored, 
officially connected trip, that was paid for in part by TCA.
    The Chair is directed, upon providing the notices required 
pursuant to House Rule XI, clause 3(b)(8)(A), and Committee 
Rule 17A(a)(2), to file this report with the House, together 
with copies of OCE's Reports and Findings in this matter.\14\ 
The filing of this report, along with its publication on the 
Committee's Web site, shall serve as publication of OCE's 
Reports and Findings in this matter, pursuant to House Rule XI, 
clause 3(b)(8)(A), and Committee Rule 17A(b)(3) and 17A(c)(2).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \14\House Rule XI, clauses 3(a)(2) and 3(b).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

VI. STATEMENT UNDER RULE XIII, CLAUSE 3(c) OF THE RULES OF THE HOUSE OF 
                            REPRESENTATIVES

    The Committee made no special oversight findings in this 
report. No budget statement is submitted. No funding is 
authorized by any measure in this report.