The U.S. House Ethics Committee said it opened an investigation into allegations that Representative Shelley Berkley of Nevada used her position to aid kidney dialysis clinics run by her husband’s medical practice.
The panel’s decision to convene an investigative subcommittee comes as Berkley, a Democrat, is running for the U.S. Senate. She is serving her seventh term in the House.
The New York Times (NYT:US) reported in September 2011 that Berkley, 61, led an effort to reverse government regulators’ decision to close a kidney transplant program at a Nevada hospital where her husband’s medical practice had a $738,000 contract. The Times reported that Berkley pressured regulators to reverse a plan to cut Medicare reimbursement rates for kidney dialysis, a service provided by a dozen clinics operated by a medical practice that includes her husband, Dr. Larry Lehrner.
The Nevada Republican Party filed an ethics complaint against Berkley, who is challenging U.S. Senator Dean Heller, a Republican. Heller, a former House member, was appointed to the seat last year following the resignation of Republican Senator John Ensign, who was the subject of a Senate Ethics Committee inquiry stemming from an extramarital affair.
Jessica Meckler, manager of Berkley’s Senate campaign, said in a statement that the campaign was “confident” the panel would make “clear that Congressman Berkley’s one and only concern was for the health and well-being of Nevada’s patients.”
Meckler said “that’s why” Berkley joined Heller, then a Republican House member, “to prevent Nevada’s only kidney transplant program from being shut down by Washington bureaucrats.”
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