House ethics committee continues probe of Florida's Grayson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The ethics committee of the U.S. House of Representatives said on Tuesday it would continue to investigate possible conflicts of interest by Representative Alan Grayson, a Florida Democrat and liberal firebrand running for the Senate seat soon to be vacated by Marco Rubio.

U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL) wears a peace symbol tie as he arrives for a classified briefing with members of Congress on the crisis in Syria on Capitol Hill in Washington, September 5, 2013. REUTERS/Larry Downing

The possible conflicts of interest relate to Grayson’s roles as both a hedge fund manager and a member of Congress. The committee in a statement said the matter needed further review; it gave no time frame for completion.

Grayson has denied any wrongdoing. In a statement Tuesday, his campaign called the ethics probe a “political witch hunt.”

The extension means the issue will still hover over a race that is seen as key to Democrats’ bid to wrest control of the Senate from Republicans in November’s elections. The primary is in August.

The New York Times reported in February that emails and the fund’s marketing documents showed Grayson had promoted his international travels, some with congressional delegations, to solicit business for the fund, in possible violation of House ethics rules.

“The larger picture here is that the Washington political establishment has decided who their favored candidate is, and it’s not Rep. Grayson,” the statement from Grayson’s campaign said.

Top Democrats have tried to get Grayson to drop out of the Florida Senate race because of the questions about the hedge fund, throwing their support to Democratic opponent Representative Patrick Murphy. President Barack Obama has endorsed Murphy, and Vice President Joe Biden has campaigned with Murphy.

Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid said earlier this year that Grayson’s actions had disgraced Congress and that he should leave the Senate race immediately.

But Grayson has been endorsed by some grassroots liberal groups who appreciate his outspokenness. One of his more famous lines, delivered during the Obamacare debate in 2009, was that the Republican health-care plan for America amounted to “don’t get sick,” and if you do, “die quickly.”

The New York Times reported that Grayson had created the hedge fund in 2011 after losing a race for re-election to Congress, and kept it open after he was re-elected in 2012.

According to filings with the Securities and Exchange, the fund had been called the Grayson Fund, but Grayson changed the name to Sibylline Fund LP. The Times reported the fund had closed branches previously located in the Cayman Islands.

Rubio, who recently ended a campaign for the Republican presidential nomination, leaves the Senate after this year after just one term. Republicans seeking the seat include Representatives Ron DeSantis and David Jolly.

Reporting by Susan Cornwell; Editing by Leslie Adler