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Ethics panel to continue Rep. Owens probe

WASHINGTON -- The House Ethics Committee said yesterday it's continuing a probe into whether a trip New York Democrat Rep. Bill Owens took to Taiwan was arranged by lobbyists for the country's government.

The case had been referred to the House committee by the Office of Congressional Ethics, a separate, outside ethics office.

The ethics committee said merely "conducting further review . . . does not itself indicate that any violation has occurred, or reflect any judgment on behalf of the committee." It said it would refrain from further comment pending completion of initial review.

Owens, of Plattsburgh, said he expects to be exonerated, that he would be cleared of wrongdoing.

The case relates to a December 2011 trip he and his wife took to Taiwan, invited by the Chinese Culture University of Taiwan. But the trip may have been arranged by lobbyists for the country. Lawmakers are prohibited from taking trips that are paid for by lobbyists.

The Office of Congressional Ethics said evidence it gathered indicated the trip was in some part organized by former U.S. Sen. Alfonse D'Amato's lobbying firm, Park Strategies. It said D'Amato and two employees of the firm declined to be interviewed.

"This is the next step in the process, and I expect that ultimately it will result in an affirmation of my position that the trip was undertaken in the quest for jobs for my constituents and was done with every intention to comply with all applicable rules," Owens said. -- AP

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