Ethics Committee to investigate Nevada Rep. Shelley Berkley

The House Ethics Committee voted unanimously Monday to form a subcommittee to investigate Nevada Democratic Rep. Shelley Berkley, who is locked in a tough race for Senate this year.

The committee-- comprised of 5 Democrats and 5 Republicans--made just one reference to the substance of their investigation (in typical fashion for their press releases.) The subcommittee will be tasked with uncovering whether Berkley violated any rule, law or code of conduct as it relates to "alleged communications and activities with or on behalf of entities in which Representative Berkley's husband had a financial interest."

The original complaint, filed by the state Republican party following a story in the New York Times, centered on Berkley's role in helping to save a kidney transplant center connected to her husband's medical firm.

Berkley and her supporters have downplayed suggestions the allegations will negatively affect her bid against Republican Sen. Dean Heller, noting that Republican members of the state delegation, including Heller, also backed the effort, which took place in 2008.

"We are pleased with the committee's decision to conduct a full and fair investigation, which will ensure all the facts are reviewed. We are confident that ultimately it will be clear that Congresswoman Berkley's one and only concern was for the health and well being of Nevada's patients," Berkley campaign manager Jessica Mackler said in a statement.

But Republicans immediately used news of the probe to lob new criticism at the congresswoman, whose race is pegged as one of the most competitive in the country.

"Since Berkley entered the political arena we've seen a long pattern of ethical questions surrounding her conduct," National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) Executive Director Rob Jesmer said in a statement following the committee's announcement. "Nevadans deserve someone in the Senate who they can trust to work on their behalf and not someone — like Ms. Berkley — who puts her own financial and political interests first."

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