WASHINGTON — The Democratic chairwoman and the Republican ranking member of the House of Representatives ethics committee have agreed to investigate Rep. Joe Wilson further for possible abuse of taxpayer-funded expense money during his travel abroad.
Emphasizing their bipartisan decision, Democratic Rep. Zoe Lofgren of California, the ethics panel's chairwoman, and Rep. Jo Bonner of Alabama, its senior Republican, said they "had jointly decided to extend" the probe of Wilson.
House rules give the committee 45 days, until Dec. 30, to announce its findings, but Lofgren and Bonner said in a terse statement Monday night that they'd decide on possible further action by Dec. 20.
Wilson, a Lexington, S.C., Republican, denied any wrongdoing.
"There are no new developments in the examination of my purchase of small souvenir cups priced under $2 each for Afghanistan veterans and their families," he said. "Now that the committee has reconvened and the election is over, I expect a swift dismissal over these tokens of appreciation for veterans priced under $2."
Wilson's statement, however, was wrong in two key aspects:
In an earlier ethics lapse, the House reprimanded Wilson in September 2009 for having violated rules of personal conduct when he yelled, "You lie!" as President Barack Obama addressed a joint session of Congress.
Since Wilson joined Congress in a December 2001 special election, his official travel abroad on 30 trips has cost taxpayers about $100,000 all told in itemized expenses, including roughly $38,000 in per diem money intended to cover only meals and lodging.
That total puts Wilson at No. 29 in itemized overseas travel costs among the 435 members of the House and at No. 39 among 730 members who've served since 1994, according to data published in the Congressional Record, the official proceedings of the House and Senate, and analyzed by Congressional Quarterly, a private publishing firm.
However, because most of Wilson's trips have been to visit U.S. troops around the world, they've entailed significant costs beyond that $100,000, including large sums in non-itemized, taxpayer-covered transport on U.S. Air Force planes.
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