What Rep. Trey Radel's ethics probe means for his political future

CREATED Dec. 17, 2013

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FORT MYERS, Fla. -- While Southwest Florida Congressman Trey Radel undergoes rehab at a Naples facility, members of the House Ethics Committee will be digging into Radel's past to determine if he's violated any codes of conduct laws relating to his job as a lawmaker. 

The Committee announced Monday it would launch an investigation following Radel's guilty plea for cocaine possession on Nov.  20th. Radel has been in rehab in Naples for the past three weeks. He will spend the next 12 months on probation, but has vowed to remain in office.

Edison State College Political Science professor Laura Weir said the committee's decision to proceed with an investigation indicates the congressman's level of support. 

"It's a serious implication both institutionally and politically," Weir said. "He has really lost his party's support at the national level if they're willing to hold this ethics investigation." 

The investigation will begin with a review from the investigative subcommittee, which consists of two Democrats and two Republicans.  Members will gather and review evidence and testimonies and upon completion vote to adopt a statement of alleged violation. 

If a statement of alleged violation is issued, the case will go to the adjudicatory subcommittee and a public hearing will be held.  If the committee determines after the hearing Radel is still in violation, a sanctions hearing will be held to discuss which sanctions to issue the congressman.  Penalties can range from a fine to an official expulsion.

Weir believes the investigation has potential to get even bigger because the committee won't just be looking at Radel. 

"Other members of the House are calling for a wider investigation of not only his staff but other members of the House, and who he was working with or associating with," she said. "I think they're looking at this being an extremely serious problem."

 As for Radel's political career, Weir said it will depend on what the investigation unveils. 

The Committee does not face a deadline for the investigation, so there's no insight as to how long it could take before a decision is reached.