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Relationship is ethical, LaTourette responds

Friday, October 15, 2004

The congressman had previously said he never asked for a waiver.
U.S. Rep. Steve LaTourette, responding to the Ohio Democratic Party's call for an ethics investigation, said he is involved in a personal relationship with a Washington lobbyist who was once his chief of staff.
LaTourette, 50, a Concord Township Republican seeking his sixth term, told The Plain Dealer on Thursday that he has not broken any laws or ethics rules as a result of his relationship with Jennifer Laptook, 33.
LaTourette said Laptook never lobbied him directly and has not lobbied the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, of which he is a member.
Asked for waver
LaTourette said he requested and received a waiver from the House ethics committee to accept gifts from Laptook in late 2003. He also said he received a second waiver from the committee in February 2004 that allowed him not to disclose gifts from Laptook on his congressional financial disclosure statement.
House members must seek waivers from the ethics committee, of which LaTourette is a member, if they receive gifts or benefits from lobbyists of $250 or more.
The statement to The Plain Dealer is in direct contrast to what he told The Vindicator on Tuesday. In an interview with The Vindicator, LaTourette said he never asked for a waiver.
LaTourette did not acknowledge Laptook by name during the interview with The Vindicator, but spoke about a relationship with a lobbyist whom he formerly employed.
Ohio Democratic Party officials announced Thursday that they had asked U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft to investigate the relationship between LaTourette and Laptook for possible violations of laws and regulations concerning congressmen and lobbyists.
Dan Trevas, spokesman for the party, said the request for the probe was based in part upon photographs the party received of LaTourette leaving Laptook's Virginia home early in the morning and of his using her car. Trevas said the photographs came from a private investigator.
He did not identify the private investigator but said the investigator did not act upon the direction of the party.
LaTourette said he believes that Capri Cafaro, his Democratic opponent, might have hired the investigator, something her campaign denies.
LaTourette divorced his wife of 21 years in March.