US & World

House ethics investigation eyes car dealership exemption

Congressman John Campbell, R-Irvine
Congressman John Campbell, R-Irvine
Kitty Felde/KPCC

It’s becoming clear that an ethics probe of lawmakers on Capitol Hill focuses on one topic: auto loans. Republican Congressman John Campbell of Irvine, who is under investigation, is also a veteran of the car business.

When the House passed its version of a financial regulation bill, it exempted car dealerships from federal oversight.

Republican Congressman John Campbell of Irvine says he introduced the exemption amendment. "I made the arguments."

The congressman owned several auto dealerships before he arrived on Capitol Hill.

He says, "obviously having worked in the car business for 25 years there’s not much people could ask me that I didn’t know the answer to."

But now a House ethics committee is investigating whether fundraisers for three Democrats and five Republicans — including Campbell — may have influenced their votes on the issue.

Campbell held two fundraisers — one on Capitol Hill, one a wine tasting in California — just a few days before lawmakers dropped an amendment that would have restored federal oversight of dealerships’ financing of new and used cars.

A spokesman for Congressman Campbell calls the investigation “routine.”

Ethics rules don’t forbid fundraisers before votes on legislation, but the House ethics committee has been examining the timing.