09/12/2012 05:56 pm ET Updated Sep 12, 2012

Shelley Berkley Targeted In Ethics Letter By Nevada Republicans

The head of Nevada's Washoe County Republican Party tried to keep attention on a congressional ethics probe of Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-Nev.) Wednesday by asking the House Ethics Committee to look into conflicting statements Berkley has made about the probe.

Berkley is challenging Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.). She is being investigated for allegedly trying to help her husband, a nephrologist, by making official appeals to keep open a Las Vegas kidney clinic where her husband had business. Heller made the same appeal. Berkley also wrote letters trying to maintain Medicare payments for kidney disease services.

The ethics probe doesn't seem to have had much impact on the race in a state where people are familiar with official corruption, but Heller's campaign and state Republicans have picked up on a pair of comments from Berkley to fan the flames.

In one interview, she said her office had checked with the ethics committee about potential conflicts of interest, and in another interview, she said she did not check.

Now Washoe County GOP boss Dave Buell has requested that the committee delve into those remarks. "I wanted to make certain that the Committee did not overlook Congresswoman Berkley's recent statements concerning your ongoing investigation into her unethical conduct," Buell wrote.

"Congresswoman Berkley did in fact say her staff contacted the House Ethics Committee during an on-camera interview, even though she denies it," Buell said in a statement announcing the letter. "Why hide the truth, Congresswoman? Did your staff contact the committee, or didn't they? There's no need to continue to lie to Nevadans about this issue. A simple yes or no answer is all that is needed.”

Nevada Democrats saw the letter as a transparent attempt to distract voters from more important issues.

"The Republicans' persistence would be admirable if it wasn't so baffling. Let me get this straight," said Zac Petkanas, senior strategist at the Nevada State Democratic Party in a statement. "After Senator Heller and his special interest allies have spent more than $3 million in attack ads on ethics that haven't moved the polls, their strategy is to double down? This is just another attempt to distract from Senator Dean Heller’s record of voting twice to essentially end Medicare by turning it over to private insurance companies in order to pay for taxpayer giveaways to Big Oil companies making record profits and tax breaks for Wall Street corporations that ship American jobs overseas."

Also on Wednesday, the group Citizens for Responsible Ethics in Washington gave Berkley a "dishonorable mention" on its list of most corrupt politicians in the nation's capital.



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