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House Ethics Committee confirms review of Bill Owens’ 2011 Taiwan trip

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The House Ethics Committee on Friday confirmed that Rep. William L. Owens, D-Plattsburgh, is under review for his trip to Taiwan last December.

According to a press release from the committee, the decision to review the matter was made by the committee’s chairman, Rep. Jo Bonner, R-Ala., and ranking member, Rep. Linda T. Sanchez, D-Calif., after it was referred by the independent Office of Congressional Ethics on Aug. 30. The committee’s release noted that such an announcement does not mean a violation had occurred or any judgment had been made.

“This is the next step in the process, and I expect that ultimately it will result in an affirmation of my position that the trip was undertaken in the quest for jobs for my constituents and was done with every intention to comply with all applicable rules,” Mr. Owens said in a statement released by his office late Friday. “I hold myself and my office to the highest of ethical standards. Which is why, in abundance of caution, I have already personally reimbursed the sponsor of the trip for the cost.”

Mr. Owens narrowly won election to his third term in November after coming under fierce criticism for the trip by his Republican challenger, Matthew A. Doheny of Watertown.

Mr. Owens’s staff has said that the four-day trip, which he took with his wife, Jane, was to meet with executives from Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Corp. and other business entities with interests in Northern New York, and was done with prior approval from the Ethics Committee. The trip also included visits with the Chamber of Commerce in Taiwan and the Taiwanese defense minister, as well as a tour of a megaport where U.S. Customs pre-clears goods headed for the United States.

The trip drew scrutiny in May after being investigated by nonprofit news outlet ProPublica, which reported that the trip was organized by lobbyists for Taiwan’s government, potentially violating rules set in place after the Jack Abramoff scandal.

The ProPublica report stated the lobbying firm involved was Park Strategies, founded by former New York Republican Sen. Alfonse M. D’Amato. Sean King, son of New York Republican Rep. Peter T. King, also was involved in organizing the trip for the firm.

ProPublica noted in its report that the firm was not named in documents sent by Mr. Owens’s office to the Ethics Committee seeking prior approval for the trip.

In May, Mr. Owens said he personally would reimburse $22,132 to the private Chinese Culture University, which was listed as the trip’s sponsor.

The committee’s announcement last week said a decision on how it would proceed with its review of the trip would be made by Jan. 28.

The committee also announced that it was reviewing the actions of Rep. Aaron Schock, R-Ill., but did not say in its release what actions it was reviewing.

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