April 21st, 2010
03:52 PM ET
13 years ago

House ethics panel launches formal Massa investigation

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/04/21/art.massa0303.gi.jpg caption="The House Ethics Committee launched a formal investigation of former Rep. Eric Massa on Monday."](CNN) - The House ethics committee launched a formal investigation Wednesday into sexual harassment allegations involving former Democratic Rep. Eric Massa, D-New York, elevating the preliminary investigation the committee began in March.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer was interviewed on Wednesday by the committee, according to his spokeswoman, Katie Grant, who told CNN that Hoyer's testimony was voluntary.

Brendan Daly, spokesman for Speaker Nancy Pelosi, told CNN Pelosi aides also have met with the ethics committee and Pelosi is volunteering to appear before the panel. "The speaker has made herself available to meet with the ethics committee at their earliest convenience. Members of our staff have met with and fully cooperated with the ethics committee," Daly said.

The committee announced it established a subcommittee "to conduct a full and complete inquiry into whether the conduct of any member, officer, or employee of the House violated any law, rule, regulation or other standard of conduct applicable to the performance of their duties with respect to the allegations of misconduct involving former Rep. Massa."

Republicans have raised questions, publicly and on the House floor through resolutions, about whether the Democratic leadership knew of and responded to reports of Massa's behavior.

After the committee's announcement, House Republican Leader John Boehner said, in a written statement, "We need answers to serious questions: What did Democratic leaders know about former Rep. Massa's conduct? When did they know? What did they do to protect the staff and interns who were being subjected to harassment by their boss?"

Massa stepped down in March after allegations became public that he had inappropriate physical contact with male members of his staff. Initially Massa insisted he was departing for health reasons. The first-term congressman then alleged Democratic leaders forced him out because of his opposition to their health care bill. He later recanted his claim that he was pushed out.

Democrats insist they handled the situation appropriately.

Pelosi's office has acknowledged that Massa's then-chief of staff, Joe Racalto, spoke to an aide in the speaker's office in October about concerns about Massa after a New York paper published a story reporting Massa used foul language and was living in a group house with some of his male aides. That article did not include any allegations about sexual harassment involving Massa and his aides, Pelosi's office said, and no allegations of harassment came up in that staff-level discussion last fall.

When allegations of Massa's misconduct involving his congressional aides first surfaced, Hoyer acknowledged that a Massa aide had approached an aide in his office. Hoyer said at the time he told his aide to tell Massa's office to report any allegations of possible inappropriate conduct to the House ethics committee or he would do so himself.

Hoyer said he never spoke to Massa personally about any of the allegations and maintained it was the responsibility of the ethics committee to look into the matter.

The ethics committee's chairman, Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-California, and its top Republican, Rep. Jo Bonner, R-Alabama, will lead the subcommittee, signaling how significant they consider the investigation. Massa resigned last month; the committee rarely initiates investigations of matters concerning a lawmaker who has left office.

Filed under: Eric Massa • House
soundoff (15 Responses)
  1. Steph

    I'm glad the Democrats kicked him out themselves.

    April 21, 2010 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
  2. Capt. Snarky

    while they're at it – let's see an investigation into Barney Franks role in the Fannie/Freddie fiasco, and Chris Dodd and Kent Conrad for their "Sweetheart" real estate deals. And How's that Charlie Rangel investigation coming along? And, just to be bipartisan, What's up with John Ensign???????

    People – WAKE UP! It's time to clean house!!!!!!!!

    Vote 'em all out!!!!!!

    April 21, 2010 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  3. Obama the Liar

    let's get to Barney, Dodd and Rangel first, put them in jail and all the other Democrap crooks will fall all over them selves.

    April 21, 2010 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  4. phoenix86

    Another democrat without morals. Where's the news?

    April 21, 2010 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  5. Howard

    Funny how this scandal gets shuffled to the back pages since this is a Democrat

    April 21, 2010 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  6. Ben

    Typical Democrat mess. Massa needs to go.

    April 21, 2010 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  7. Willy Brown

    Goochie Goochie Goo

    April 21, 2010 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  8. geecee

    Wow, they really want to crucify this guy. Unless the members of his staff were underage, just leave it alone. Do these guys want to pursue the sexual harrassment charges? Then they should go ahead with it in a civil court, otherwise, the man has resigned and is probably wanting to commit suicide by now, but Congress just can't give it a rest. I don't remember Mark Foley, a Republican Congressman from Florida, going through this hassle when he left Congress under similar circumstances. This guy is a Democrat though, so he needs to go through h*ll otherwise the Repubicans will make a stink that he got off easy. That must be it!!

    April 21, 2010 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  9. Ellie

    Massa is one looney dude. Good riddance.

    April 21, 2010 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  10. Ron in California

    At the risk of offending clowns...what a Bozo this guy is. Gratefully he is not a Republican. If he were the left wing media and talk shows like Olberman and Maddow would lead in on this everyday....Hey wait a minute.. Shouldn't this get some airhead time??

    April 21, 2010 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  11. Marie MD

    Where are these ethics committees when the repugs have sex with minors, interns, other men, woman not their wives?
    I am still waiting for somebody to grow some in Congress and investigate the C street gang.

    April 21, 2010 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  12. No More Incumbents

    House Ethics.... talk about an oxymoron.

    April 21, 2010 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  13. JES

    No way this must be a mistake but don't worry nothing will come of it your a DEM.

    April 21, 2010 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  14. rob

    "Republicans should put their energy into working with us in a bipartisan way on this effort and allow their Republican colleagues to work with Democrats on the bipartisan Ethics Committee without any more partisan grandstanding," Grant said"

    Partisan grandstanding???? Hoyer doesn't want the Republicans to talk about this case????

    Anyone rember Speaker Hassert being harassed daily by the Dems and their friends in the media about Rep. Foley and his inappropriate emails??? The Dems were invited on every TV news show to ask the questions: "What did they know and when did they know it?" It was of the utmost moral and legal imperative that we get to the bottom of that horrible scandle that just showed how corrupt the republicans were.

    Any of you remember that???????

    April 21, 2010 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  15. Bobby

    Right. What does this do,keep the crook safe for another 100 years. Look at Charlie Rangel. Here is a man that has admitted guilt but he has been under investigation for over three years and I do not think it is even kicked off yet. One sure way to be completely safe from any type of legal action is for this committee to look into your crookery. Gotta prorect each other.

    April 21, 2010 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |