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House launches probe of Rep. Pittenger but will defer to FBI

November 19, 2015

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — The House Ethics Committee said Thursday that it will delay a probe into Republican U.S. Rep. Robert Pittenger while federal authorities investigate his family’s business.

The committee announced that its probe would be concerned with “allegations that he received compensation for his involvement with” Pittenger Land Investments, but said the U.S. Justice Department requested that it wait to consider the matter.

The congressman asked the committee to investigate earlier this month. “We requested the investigation to clear things up,” he said by phone Thursday.

House rules generally prohibit paid work in fiduciary services such as accounting, real estate or the law. The rules make some exceptions for relationships with family-owned businesses.

At least three other House members have requested ethics investigations of themselves in the past decade.

The second-term congressman — whose district includes suburbs around Charlotte — has said he cut ties with the company right after he was elected to the U.S. House in 2012. His wife has continued to run the company.

FBI agents spoke to employees and requested information from Pittenger Land Investments earlier this year, the congressman has said.

In a letter released to the media this week, Pittenger’s attorney Ken Bell said he had reviewed numerous documents and hadn’t seen anything suggesting criminal conduct by the congressman or his former company.

Pittenger Land Investments’ website, which appeared to be down Thursday, previously said it had acquired more than $250 million in undeveloped land in Charlotte; Austin, Texas; Tennessee; and along the South Carolina coast. A company brochure said it has given annual average returns of 18 percent to its investors.

Pittenger said the company is in the process of being sold.

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