Va. congressman critical of federal investigation


RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — U.S. Rep. H. Morgan Griffith said Tuesday that the federal investigation into a state senator's recent resignation is politically motivated, echoing the complaints of some fellow Republicans in the state legislature.

In a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, the congressman decried the ongoing inquiry into former Democratic state Sen. Phil Puckett's June 9 resignation. Investigators are looking into a potential job offer at a GOP-controlled tobacco commission Puckett was considering at the time, and the commission's interim executive director was ordered to appear before a grand jury last month.

"And we wonder why people do not trust the government they elect to serve them," Griffith said in the letter.

Puckett's departure gave Republicans control of the state Senate and dealt a blow to Gov. Terry McAuliffe's bid to expand Medicaid. Expanding publicly financed health care for the poor is a key part of President Barack Obama's health care overhaul plans.

Puckett said in a statement at the time of his departure that he was resigning so his daughter could be appointed to a state judgeship. The Senate had blocked her appointment because of a policy of not putting lawmakers' immediate family members on the bench.

Griffith, a Republican from southwest Virginia, said he sees no wrongdoing in Puckett's resignation. Griffith added that there are several similar cases of elected officials resigning or being offered jobs for political purposes both in state and the federal government that were not investigated. He cited examples involving Obama as well as former Virginia Govs. Mark Warner, Tim Kaine and Jim Gilmore.

Griffith said he "can draw no other conclusion that this is a politically motivated investigation intended to intimidate individuals who took perfectly legal actions that also happen to be unhelpful to the agenda of President Obama."

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