WASHINGTON -- The House Ethics Committee will continue to investigate sexual harassment allegations against U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Corpus Christi, even though another Congressional investigative arm has recommended the matter be dismissed.
Farenthold's former communications director, Lauren Greene, filed a lawsuit in 2014 alleging that the congressman engaged in inappropriate behavior that resulted in her termination.
In a Monday announcement, the ethics committee revealed that a report from another investigative entity, the Office of Congressional Ethics, recommended a dismissal of the matter on June 26. But the committee did not follow suit.
The OCE report found no "substantial reason to believe" that Farenthold "engaged in an effort to intimidate, take reprisal against, or discriminate against" Greene.
But the ethics committee did not dismiss the complaint.
"Due to the ongoing nature of the lawsuit, the Committee has not yet been able to complete its review of the matter and therefore is not in a position to dismiss the matter at this time," a committee news release stated. "The Committee will continue its review and ultimately will take any additional action it deems necessary, consistent with the House and Committee rules."
The ethics committee oversees member compliance with the ethical rules of the House of Representatives. It is the only evenly divided committee in the House. U.S. Rep. Kenny Marchant is the lone Texan on the committee.
The Office of Congressional Ethics is a quasi-independent panel that investigates allegations of improper conduct and refers matters to the ethics Committee. House leadership from both parties appoints its six-member board of private citizens, including former members of Congress. In Farenthold's case, all six voted to recommend dismissal.
The good news for Farenthold:
OCE's short, emphatic and unanimous report is some of the first good news Farenthold has had amid these ugly accusations, and his team was optimistic on Monday.
"Congressman Farenthold understands the position that House Ethics is in and is certain that once the legal nature of this situation is resolved, they will reach the same findings and conclusions that the Office of Congressional Ethics has already unanimously reached," Farenthold spokesman Kurt Bardella said.
The bad news for Farenthold:
This does not mean the investigation is over.
The House Ethics Committee had 90 days to review OCE's referral. If members agreed with the dismissal, the House investigation into Farenthold would have quietly gone away. But the fact that the committee did not concur with OCE's referral means that Monday's announcement amounts to a continued investigation.
The best news for Farenthold:
Beyond official House investigations, Farenthold is in fairly healthy shape when it comes to re-election.
Early in this matter, many assumed he would face a primary challenger, and possibly even a Democratic rival. But as of June 30, Farenthold does not have a challenger who has raised more than $10,000.
The filing deadline is Dec. 14.