Rep. Ross Spano’s ethics inquiry continues to be deferred, a sign Justice Department is still investigating

Spano lost his reelection bid in the August primary.
In this Dec. 18, 2019, photo, Rep. Ross Spano, R-Fla., speaks as the House of Representatives debates.
In this Dec. 18, 2019, photo, Rep. Ross Spano, R-Fla., speaks as the House of Representatives debates. [ AP ]
Published Nov. 16, 2020

WASHINGTON — The House Ethics Committee will continue to defer an inquiry into Rep. Ross Spano, a sign that the Justice Department is likely still investigating the Florida Republican’s alleged acceptance of improper loans to support his 2018 congressional campaign.

In August 2019, the Office of Congressional Ethics transferred a report to the House Ethics Committee saying there was a substantial reason to believe Spano received loans that exceeded federal campaign contribution limits.

Shortly after Spano was elected to Congress, the Tampa Bay Times reported he borrowed $180,000 from two personal friends and subsequently lent his campaign $167,000, a potential violation of federal campaign finance law. Contributions from individuals for the 2017-18 federal election cycle were capped at $2,700 per election.

Related: Ross Spano acknowledges possible ‘violation’ of campaign finance law

As is the case with members of Congress who are being investigated by the Justice Department, the House Ethics Committee initially deferred consideration of the matter to the department in November 2019. Monday’s release by the Ethics panel serves as an annual update.

“The Committee continues to defer consideration of this matter at this time,” the ethics panel said. “The Committee notes that the mere fact of its decision to defer action on this matter, and any mandatory disclosure of that decision, does not itself indicate that any violation has occurred.”

The House Ethics Committee has previously deferred consideration to the Justice Department in the cases of former Republican Reps. Chris Collins of New York and Duncan Hunter of California. Collins is serving a 26-month prison sentence in Florida for insider trading. Hunter, who was convicted for misusing campaign funds, is scheduled to report to prison in Texas in January for his 11-month sentence.

Spano lost his primary race to Scott Franklin and will not be a part of the 117th Congress. When Spano exits, the House Ethics Committee will no longer have jurisdiction over Spano.

Representatives for Spano did not respond to a request for comment.

The Justice Department did not respond to a request for comment.