Ethics Committee appoints panel in Shelley Berkley case
The House Ethics Committee says it has appointed a panel to investigate whether Democratic Rep. Shelley Berkley used her position to protect her family's financial interests, giving Republicans additional fodder to question her conduct leading up to Video by ktnv.comvideo
Las Vegas, NV (KTNV) -- A political setback tonight for Congresswoman Shelley Berkley.
The House Ethics Committee announced today that is has appointed a panel to investigate if Berkley used her position to protect her family's financial interests.
The time of this investigation could not be worse. Berkley is currently running for the U.S. Senate.
It all stems from her attempt to save a program at the University Medical Center, according to her critics.
The alleged abuse happened in 2008. The hospital was at risk of losing Nevada's only kidney transplant center because of government cuts.
Nevada's congressional delegation -- including Berkley -- fought to save it.
The problem is that Berkley's husband, Dr. Larry Lehner, is a kidney specialist who had a contract with UMC at the time.
A House Ethics Panel must decide now whether or not Berkley's personal ties to the program violated House ethics rules. Four of her colleagues -- two Republicans and two Democrats -- will lead the investigation.
Zak Petkanas, a senior adviser to the Berkley campaign, says that she did nothing wrong.
"Once the committee does a full and fair investigation they are going to find what everybody knows. That Shelley Berkley's one and only motivation is ensuring the health and well being of Nevada's patients."
He points to the fact that there were 200 Nevadans waiting for a transplant at the time of the threatened closure.
And that her Republican colleagues -- John Porter and Dean Heller -- fought with her to save the program.
Heller, who is now defending his Senate seat against Berkley, is not commenting on the ethics investigation.
But other Republicans have been quick to pounce. Team Nevada is going as far as to say that this marks the end of Berkley's already-struggling campaign.
Petkanas laughed in response.
"Well I'm sure they believe that. They want it to be about this but this election is about who is fighting for the middle class."