With a modest rebuke, House closes book on Ferarro finances
Washington — The House Ethics Committee this week has gently rebuked Rep. Geraldine A. Ferraro while effectively ending all threat of action against the New Yorker for improperly filing financial disclosures.
The Queens Democrat, who so often faced questions about her personal finances during her campaign for vice-president, once again faced a battery of cameras and reporters.
Nearing the end of her term in public office, on Tuesday she attempted to put to rest the controversy that followed her on the campaign trail.
''I think I am totally vindicated by the House,'' she announced, while she continued to dispute even the mild criticisms in the House committee findings and attacked the charges against her as ''partisan action.''
The question now confronting Ms. Ferraro after her historymaking campaign is whether the issue will cloud her political future.
She has often said that she would like to run for the Senate in 1986, and she maintained this week that the House Ethics Committee report would not hurt her because she said it found only technical violations and ''no intent on my part to deceive.''
Under House rules, members are required to list their financial holdings and outside income, as well as the finances of their spouses in all but a few exceptional cases.
Soon after Walter F. Mondale picked Ferraro as his running mate, the Washington Legal Foundation investigated her disclosures and filed a complaint with the House Ethics Committee in August. The House panel this week sustained 10 of the 12 allegations of incorrect filings for the years 1978 through 1983.
Ferraro supplied most of the missing or corrected information to the House panel on Oct. 1, while asserting that the mistakes were inadvertent.
The Ethics Committee accepted her explanation, concluding that ''all facts point to error, oversight, and misinterpretation as the reason for incomplete disclosures.''
Although the committee found her in ''technical violation,'' further action would be almost impossible, since it would have to be taken by the full House, which will not be in session until January when Ferraro steps down from her seat.
Further, the panel found that she failed to meet any of the three requirements for the exemption from disclosing husband John Zaccaro's financial holdings. The committee concluded that Mr. Zaccaro's finances contributed to the family home and vacation properties and thus should have been listed.
Although that violation could have brought a sanction, the Ethics Committee report recommended none, since there was no time to grant a hearing on the issue , which the congresswoman disputes, before the session ends. Ferraro said this week that she continues ''to believe that my exemption claims were reasonable and proper.''
Those issues may yet play some role in a future Ferraro campaign, but they are now moot in the House. The chief concern for lawmakers now will probably be avoiding similar problems themselves.
''The Ferraro matter has provided the opportunity for the committee to clarify the meaning of the exemption, and put all members on notice of its proper use,'' said the ethics panel, which is chaired by Rep. Louis Stokes (D) of Ohio.
In another cleanup action following the Mondale-Ferarro campaign, Mr. Mondale has agreed to pay $398,000 to the Treasury Department after the Federal Election Commission (FEC) found that pro-Mondale ''delegate committees'' violated election laws.
The committees, which were said to be independent of the Mondale campaign, were set up to provide aid to Mondale supporters who wanted to become delegates to the Democratic National Convention.
The move during the primaries was attacked as an effort to circumvent legal spending limits on the campaign.
The FEC found that the delegate committees were actually part of the Mondale campaign.