House Ethics Committee will not launch investigation of congressman Tierney

Salem, MA - 11/06/12 - Congressman John F. Tierney with his wife Patrice at his side spoke to supporter late at his election night party at the Hawthorne Hotel in Salem. - (Barry Chin/Globe Staff), Section: Metro, Reporter: needham, Topic: 07sixth.
US Representative John F. Tierney with his wife, Patrice, at his side spoke to supporters on election night in November. Despite the controversy, he won re-election.
Barry Chin/Globe Staff

The House Ethics Committee today announced that it will not open an ethics investigation into allegations that US Representative John Tierney failed to report some of his wife’s income on his taxes, essentially ending legal review of an issue that dogged the Salem Democrat in his last two re-election campaigns.

Tierney has faced repeated questions about $223,000 that his wife received while managing a joint bank account for her brother, federal fugitive Robert Eremian, who was running an illegal gambling business on the Caribbean island of Antigua.

But Ethics Committee Chairman K. Michael Conaway, a Texas Republican, and the committee’s ranking Democrat, Linda Sanchez of California, said the evidence was inconclusive as to whether the money Patrice Tierney received was income or a gift from her brother as she insisted, which would not be subject to federal taxes.

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“The Committee reviewed the allegations, conducted additional investigation as necessary, and unanimously concluded that the presently available evidence was inconclusive as to whether the payments to Mrs. Tierney were income or gifts,” said Conaway and Sanchez in a joint statement released this afternoon.

As a result, the committee leaders said, they could not conclude that Tierney had deliberately mischaracterized the money as a gift to avoid taxes.

“Therefore, after careful consideration, the Committee has unanimously voted to close the matter ... and determined that no further action is required at this time,” Conaway and Sanchez said.

“I thank the Ethics Committee for its unbiased and expedited review,” said Tierney in a written statement. “After three years of politically motivated, partisan attacks on this issue, I look forward to putting it behind me. The focus belongs on the residents of the 6th District.”

Last year, Tierney barely defeated Republican Richard Tisei after a bruising campaign in which he faced questions about whether he should have listed the money his wife received as spousal income on his Congressional financial disclosure form, and reported the money as income to the IRS.

Today, Tierney is already facing two Democratic party primary challengers and the possibility of another Tisei campaign. But Democratic Party leaders, including House minority leader Nancy Pelosi — whose daughter once served as Tierney’s chief of staff — have rallied around Tierney as he lays the groundwork for another re-election campaign in 2014.