Local Lawmaker Cleared In Ethics Probe

Updated:

CHARLOTTE, N.C.,None — The investigation into contributions made to a congressman from Charlotte is now over.

Rep. Mel Watt was part of an ethics probe, but his name was cleared. Watt said he got the official word that he was no longer being investigated on Wednesday.

"I'm just glad it's over," he said. "I'm happy to have my life back."

The investigation centered on a fundraiser that the Watt campaign staged at Democratic Party headquarters last December.

The event happened just days before the landmark vote to overhaul the nation's financial system. Watt and several other members of Congress were being probed for donations reportedly accepted just before that vote.

"I understood after I got into the investigation why they were raising questions about this, and I felt like based on information given to them, I'd be completely exonerated and that would be the end of it," Watt said.

A letter Watt received from the Office of Congressional Ethics says board members voted to "dismiss the allegations" against him. Still, Watt says for him, it isn't really over.

He estimates he's spent more than 100 hours defending himself and said he's lost campaign contributions and thinks some people now look at him differently.

"I don't think you fully recover your reputation even with a finding of, like the one that I got, that there's been no impropriety."

The House Office of Congressional Ethics also recommended no further investigation of four other lawmakers in the same probe: Democratic Rep. Earl Pomeroy of North Dakota and Republicans Jeb Hensarling of Texas, Chris Lee of New York, and Frank Lucas of Oklahoma.

The office recommended that the House ethics committee pursue potential rules violations by Republicans John Campbell of California and Tom Price of Georgia and Democrat Joseph Crowley of New York.