Updated July 9, 6:20 p.m. ET
The House Ethics Committee will move to investigate Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-NV) over advocacy on behalf of a kidney transplant program at University Medical Center in Las Vegas, where her husband works, the committee announced Monday.
Berkley is running in the Nevada Senate race, hoping to unseat Republican Sen. Dean Heller.
Berkley’s campaign has in the past pointed out that both Berkley and Heller advocated for the program, and worked to prevent Medicare from pulling its funds, a fact it pointed out again once the investigation was announced Monday.
“We are pleased with the committee’s decision to conduct a full and fair investigation, which will ensure all the facts are reviewed. We are confident that ultimately it will be clear that Rep. Berkley’s one and only concern was for the health and well-being of Nevada’s patients,” said campaign manager Jessica Mackler.
“That’s why she joined then Republican Rep. Dean Heller to prevent Nevada’s only kidney transplant program from being shut down by Washington bureaucrats. 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.”
The National Republican Senatorial Committee quickly pounced on the news — as they and other GOP groups have used the story to build a narrative in ads of Berkley using government to steer money to her husband.
“It speaks volumes that even Shelley Berkley’s Democrat colleagues unanimously voted to move forward investigating Berkley’s use of her office to enrich her and her husband,” NRSC Executive Director Rob Jesmer said in a statement. “Since Berkley entered the political arena we’ve seen a long pattern of ethical questions surrounding her conduct. Nevadans deserve someone in the Senate who they can trust to work on their behalf and not someone - like Ms. Berkley - who puts her own financial and political interests first.”
The New York Times reported in September 2011 that federal regulators were seeking to shut down the program — the only transplant center in the state — due to higher-than-expected failure rates. Ultimately, the program was saved, and the hospital agreed to take action to remedy the problems.
On Monday, Committee Chairman Jo Bonner (R-AL) and Ranking Member Linda Sanchez (D-CA) said in a release:
In accordance with Clause 3 of House Rule XI and Committee Rules 14(a)(3) and 18, the Committee on Ethics (the Committee) unanimously voted on June 29, 2012, to establish an investigative subcommittee. Pursuant to the Committee’s action, the investigative subcommittee shall have jurisdiction to determine whether Representative Shelley Berkley violated the Code of Official Conduct or any law, rule, regulation, or other applicable standard of conduct in the performance of her duties or the discharge of her responsibilities, with respect to alleged communications and activities with or on behalf of entities in which Representative Berkley’s husband had a financial interest.
Republican Rep. K. Michael Conaway will serve as the chairman of the investigative subcommittee, and Democratic Rep. Donna F. Edwards will serve as the ranking member, according to the release. Rounding out the subcommittee are Reps. Robert E. Latta and Adam Schiff, a Republican and Democrat, respectively.