Ethics Panel Reviews Rep. Thomas Petri in Stock Transaction

Image: Ethics Panel Reviews Rep. Thomas Petri in Stock Transaction U.S. Rep. Thomas Petri, R-Wis. (MCT/Landov)

Tuesday, 19 Aug 2014 10:08 AM

By Andrea Billups

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U.S. Rep. Thomas Petri of Wisconsin is the subject of a House Ethics panel investigation over stock he owns in a defense firm, The Hill reported.

The panel was asked by the Office of Congressional Ethics to look into stock holdings in the defense contractor Oshkosh Corp., for which Petri, has advocated. The company is located within Wisconsin's 6th Congressional District and manufactures heavy-duty vehicles for the military and fire-rescue operations.

Petri, 74, a Harvard alumnus, had asked the ethics office to review his proper involvement in February. He said he welcomed the ongoing investigation.

"I look forward to the Committee on Ethics completing its review," Petri said in a statement. "I remain confident that the committee will find that I acted properly, and that I reasonably sought, relied on, and followed the committee’s advice, and that I complied with House rules."

Since Petri stepped up to advocate for Oshkosh, including helping it to hold onto a $3 billion military contract, the value of his stock holdings has increased by 30 percent, USA Today reported.

According to a financial disclosure review by Gannett's Washington bureau, the veteran lawmaker bought between $265,000 and $650,000 in Oshkosh stock since 2006.

While his dealings have raised concerns about conflict of interest, Petri has defended that his purchases are unrelated to his advocacy. "He takes ethics and disclosure seriously and goes to great lengths to ensure he is in full compliance," Petri's spokesman Lee Brooks told USA Today, noting the congressman's staff has worked to make sure his conduct passes muster by the House Ethics Committee.

The misconduct review is expected to be completed after about three months. Petri, who has served in Congress for 35 years, made a surprise announcement that he was not seeking re-election after news of the probe broke.

"Ethics watchdogs have said his actions could be found in violation of House rules because he contacted executive branch agencies — in this case the defense secretary and secretary of the Army — in 2009 in an attempt to preserve and expedite the awarding of the $3 billion truck-manufacturing contract to Oshkosh," Gannett noted of the probe.

Raising concerns, Petri also lobbied congressional colleagues "to reject $101 million worth of cuts the Pentagon wanted to make to its budget for the trucks in 2013." The House voted to block about $80 million in cuts.

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