House Ethics Committee To Open Massa Probe

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Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images Former New York Rep. Eric Massa resigned last month after allegations that he made sexual advances toward a male

Former New York Rep. Eric Massa resigned last month after allegations that he made sexual advances toward a male staffer.

The New York Democrat resigned last month after accusations of sexual harassment. Although the committee has no jurisdiction over former House members, it said the allegations were serious enough to warrant a full-blown investigation to find out if other lawmakers or staff knew of the alleged misconduct and failed to properly report it.

The House ethics committee has announced it will open an investigation into the scandal surrounding former New York Rep. Eric Massa, who resigned last month after accusations of sexual harassment.

The ethics committee has no jurisdiction over former House members, but it released a statement Wednesday saying the allegations against Massa are serious enough to warrant a full-blown investigation. Specifically, the committee wants to know whether any other lawmakers, staff or leaders knew of the allegations, and how they responded.

The Washington Post also reported Wednesday that the FBI has launched a public corruption investigation looking into large payments made out of Massa's campaign and official accounts before he resigned.

The Democrat is accused of using provocative language and making sexual advances toward a young male staffer in his office. In an interview with Fox News commentator Glenn Beck last month, Massa said he groped one of his staffers in a tickle fight, but that it wasn't sexual.

At least one member of the Democratic leadership knew of the harassment allegations before they were reported to the ethics committee. Majority Leader Steny Hoyer learned of the accusations through a staffer and told Massa's office it had three days to report the issue to the committee or he would do it himself.

The committee wants to find out who else knew and what they did with the information. If it decides there is a possibility of misconduct by someone who knew about the allegations, the committee said, that person would be investigated as well.

Republicans have said someone in House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's office may have known about the alleged misconduct. In October, a Pelosi aide sat down with Massa's chief of staff to discuss Massa's use of explicit language and his living situation -- for some months at the beginning of his term, he lived in a group house with young male staffers in Washington. Pelosi's office said harassment allegations were not brought up at the meeting.

Copyright 2010 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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