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House ethics body extends probe of NJ congressman
Friday - 8/31/2012, 6:49pm EDT
TRENTON, N.J. (AP) - The House Ethics Committee announced Friday that it will take more time to review allegations that a congressman representing New Jersey misused campaign funds by spending them on personal expenses, including a family trip to Scotland and a high school graduation party for his daughter.
The committee also released a detailed report on the practices of Democratic U.S. Rep. Rob Andrews that it received in March from the Office of Congressional Ethics.
That report found there is "substantial reason to believe" that Andrews inappropriately used campaign funds to take his family to Scotland for a wedding, to make multiple trips to California and for a party held in honor of the high school graduation of one of his daughters and the 20th anniversary of his congressional service. All were in 2011.
Andrews repaid more than $13,000 for the Scotland trip, which he said was a legitimate campaign expense because it was for the wedding of a donor.
As it released the report, the Ethics Committee said it does not indicate that there was a violation.
Andrews said in a statement that he believes the committee will eventually clear him of any wrong doing. "As the committee continues its review, the record will show that I have followed all rules and met all standards of the House," he said.
Melanie Sloan, executive director of the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, said she expects Andrews will be found to have violated campaign finance rules.
"Even the notoriously lax ethics committee will have trouble letting Rep. Andrews off the hook," she said in a statement. "We look forward to seeing Rep. Andrews held accountable for the hundreds of thousands of dollars he has misspent."
Earlier this year, The Associated Press found in an analysis of Andrews' campaign finance filings that the donor-funded California trips had been a regular occurrence. From 2007 through 2011, the filings showed, he used at least $97,000 in campaign money to pay for 18 trips to California.
During that time, his teenage daughter also had business in California in auditions and recording sessions in her fledgling singing and acting career.
Andrews has said that the trips were for research, meetings and fundraising and that California donors have become important for his campaigns.
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(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)