, Salem, MA

September 18, 2013

Our view: Ethics panel finding on Tierney should bring better campaign

The Salem News

---- — The word last week that the U.S. House Ethics Committee has shut down its investigation into the actions or inactions of Congressman John Tierney regarding his wife’s tax handling of cash from her brothers’ off-shore gambling ventures will draw all sorts of reactions from officials and voters alike.

Some, of course, will always believe, as brother-in-law Daniel Eremian asserted last year, that the Salem Democrat “knew everything” about what proved to be the Eremians’ gaming scheme. Others, no doubt, welcome the Ethics Committee news as one more affirmation of Tierney’s position that he had nothing to do with his wife’s family and did nothing wrong.

The hope here is that the decision will set the stage for an election season that is centered on issues that affect the daily lives of those of us who live in the 6th District.

The ethics committee did the public few favors with its softly worded announcement of its decision, saying its investigation “does not warrant a finding that Representative Tierney intentionally mischaracterized the nature of the payments for financial disclosure or tax purposes,” noting “evidence was inconclusive” on whether the congressman should have disclosed the money his wife, Patrice, received from her brother in return for managing a bank account for him. (Tierney has called the money a family gift and said it did not need to be disclosed under congressional rules.)

It should be noted, however, that the 10-member committee, chaired by a Republican, Mike Conaway of Texas, voted unanimously to close the matter and said it will take no further action. (And federal prosecutors never tied the congressman to any illegal activity during the 2010 trial of his wife, who pleaded guilty to helping her brother file false tax returns and admitted to being “willfully blind” to the illegal source of her brother’s millions. She served 30 days in prison, followed by two years of probation, including five months of home confinement.)

Sixth District voters should be grateful that, in recognizing there was no evidence of wrongdoing on the part of the congressman, the bipartisan ethics committee also set the stage for what should be a far more effective and positive election campaign next year than we all saw in 2012.

While there are no assurances that challengers won’t raise personal and credibility concerns, the Ethic Committee’s statement that evidence “does not warrant a finding that Representative Tierney intentionally mischaracterized the nature of the payments for financial disclosure or tax purposes” should take the case off the campaign table.

That’s not only good for Tierney and his supporters, but for North Shore and other 6th District voters who should be able to hear the congressman and his challengers debate important federal policy issues, not merely clash over what Tierney might have known and when about his wife’s family’s gambling enterprises.

We look forward to a spirited and informative campaign, with Democratic challengers Seth Moulton and Marisa DeFranco already in the 2014 6th District race and Republican candidates, possibly 2012 challenger Richard Tisei, no doubt to follow.