The House Ethics Committee is continuing to review allegations that Rep. Roger Williams, R-Texas, tried to enrich his business with an amendment he successfully attached to the highway bill last year.
The Office of Congressional Ethics referred the matter to the Ethics Committee after government watchdog groups accused Williams of having a conflict of interest.
The Ethics Committee decided June 27 to continue debating whether it should open an official probe. The House's self-policing panel made its decision public late Thursday.
The Congressional Ethics Office recommended the Ethics Committee investigate because "there is substantial reason to believe that Representative Williams' personal financial interest in his auto dealership may be perceived as having influenced his performance of official duties — namely, his decision to offer of an amendment to the surface transportation legislation," according to its April 22 report.
The report also stated that Williams was uncooperative with the office's probe.
Last November Williams authored an amendment exempting auto dealerships, such as the Auto Mall he owns in Weatherford, Texas, from renting out safety recalled vehicles. However, rental car companies can no longer do so.
"As we stated in our letter last November, the House Ethics Manual differentiates between a representative voting on a bill that affects him or her as a member of a class and a representative acting as an advocate," the Campaign Legal Center's Meredith McGehee stated in response to the Ethics Committee's decision. "The manual explicitly states that prior to undertaking such advocacy implicating a representative's financial interest, the representative should clear it with the Ethics Committee. It remains unclear whether Rep. Williams ever did that."
Williams and the dealership denied any wrongdoing in their joint response to the Ethics Committee signed by Williams' lawyer.
Williams offered his amendment "ethically, without any improper motivations and without any desire or possible effect of personal gain," the response requesting the Ethics Committee clear Williams reads.
"The economies of his dealership's loaner vehicle program demonstrate that Rep. Williams did not expect to receive any financial benefit," his response states.