WASHINGTON -- The House Ethics Committee said Thursday it is opening a full probe of Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-Nev.) for advocating for a kidney clinic that benefited her husband, potentially dealing a heavy blow to Democrats' hopes of winning a Republican Senate seat.
She has maintained that position in the race, in spite of accusations that she advocated to the federal government to prevent the closure of a kidney transplant clinic where her husband, Larry Lehrner, had a contract with his nephrology practice. She also appealed to colleagues to preserve Medicare reimbursement rates for doctors who do dialysis.
Politicians often write such letters on behalf of constituents, and other Nevada lawmakers signed the appeal to keep the clinic open. But the Ethics Committee -- based on its own work and the work of the Office of Congressional Ethics, which submitted its own separate report -- deemed Berkley's actions worthy of investigation.
"The investigative subcommittee shall have jurisdiction to determine whether Representative Shelley Berkley violated the Code of Official Conduct or any law, rule, regulation, or other applicable standard of conduct in the performance of her duties or the discharge of her responsibilities, with respect to alleged communications and activities with or on behalf of entities in which Representative Berkley's husband had a financial interest," the committee said in a joint statement from the panel's top Democrat and Republican.
It was not clear when the probe would conclude.
Berkley will be vindicated by the investigation, campaign manager Jessica Mackler said in a statement.
“We are confident that ultimately it will be clear that Congresswoman Berkley’s one and only concern was for the health and well-being of Nevada’s patients," Mackler said. "That’s why she joined then Republican Congressman Dean Heller to prevent Nevada’s only kidney transplant program from being shut down by Washington bureaucrats. With more than 200 Nevada patients desperately waiting for a lifesaving kidney transplant, it would have been irresponsible of her not to work with the state’s entire congressional delegation to protect the program.”
Heller's campaign declined to comment.