Ex-Congressman Deal disputes ethics allegations

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GAINESVILLE, Ga. --- A former congressman running for governor in Georgia disputed claims Tuesday that he might have broken ethics rules with his auto salvage business.

Republican Nathan Deal said he had done nothing wrong and blamed the media and congressional investigators for "distorting the truth" in a politically motivated effort to upend his gubernatorial bid.

On Monday, the Office of Congressional Ethics released a report that suggested Deal might have violated House ethics rules when he lobbied Georgia officials not to change a program that had funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars into his business.

"Sometimes in the world of politics there is a price to be paid for doing what's right," a defiant Deal said at a news conference in his hometown. "Over the last couple of days, I have seen those who would exact a price from me."

The bipartisan ethics panel voted to release the 138-page report one week after Deal resigned from Congress. The ethics panel's investigation ended when Deal stepped down.

However, the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics has asked the Justice Department to launch a criminal investigation of his business dealings with the state.

Deal resigned his seat immediately after voting against the Democratic-backed federal health care legislation.

He called the decision to release the report "political payback." He said that while the board of the Office of Congressional Ethics is bipartisan, its staff is controlled by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat.

The congressional report said Deal exceeded limits on outside income. Deal reported he was paid $75,000 in wages in 2008. Congressional caps limit outside income to $25,830.

Deal blamed an accounting error and said the $75,000 should have been listed as dividends. The report also suggested Deal might have improperly used his office to intervene with the state Department of Revenue on behalf of his business. Deal said the safety of auto inspections -- not profit -- was behind his involvement.


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