WASHINGTON — Republican Rep. Tom Reed refused Monday to release correspondence between his attorney and the House Ethics Committee regarding his lengthy effort to wind down his law practice and medical debt collection business after his election to the House.
Reed, a former mayor of Corning who was sworn in as a House member in November 2010, was required under House ethics rules to stop practicing law and take his name off any signs or correspondence used by his former law firm.
A recent Buffalo News story cited 194 legal documents filed in Corning City Court in 2011 and nine filed in 2012 that used the name of "the Law Office of Thomas W. Reed II PLLC'' in apparent violation of House rules.
Reed's attorney, Joe Rizzo, said last week the congressman "has nothing to hide.'' He said he would release correspondence explaining why the process stretched out for months, once the congressman gave permission.
But Reed said Monday the documents won't be released while he is still cooperating with reviews by the bipartisan House Ethics Committee and the independently operated Office of Congressional Ethics.
"I think now that the process has been initiated with the ethics bodies, I think that we go that process and fully comply with that process,'' he said.
Reed also said he "would be hard-pressed'' to believe Rizzo had pledged to release the documents, once Reed authorized it.
Asked if he's under investigation, Reed said, "not that I am aware of.''
Reed hired Rizzo immediately after the 2010 election to handle the divestiture of his former businesses. Rizzo said last week that, at the time, there were no buyers for the law firm, and Reed didn't want to lay off employees. It's not clear how many of the employees worked for the law firm, how many worked for the medical debt collection business and how the two were linked.
According to Reed, one of his brothers now runs the medical debt collection business, and the law firm has been winding down its business. Some commercial real estate in the congressman's name is up for sale.
Members of the House Ethics Committee were advised that the divestiture presented challenges and were satisfied by answers provided some months later, Rizzo said last week.
"The committee felt it was unique,'' Rizzo said. "What was he supposed to do? Just fire everybody? We really were trying to find a way to accommodate these folks. But when it was taking months instead of just a few weeks, we made immediate efforts to wind the thing down and to let the committee know that's what happened. And we believe that they are absolutely completely satisfied with the information we provided them.''
Reed's Democratic opponent, Martha Robertson, has called for the congressman to release the documents.
Robertson, meanwhile, is under attack by Tompkins County Republican Chairman James Drader, who has filed a complaint with the New York State Board of Elections for a fundraising email Robertson's campaign distributed that claimed "GOP ops'' were trying to shut down her web site.
The claim has not been substantiated and Robertson has not followed up on a subsequent claim that she was going to hire a cyber-security firm to investigate. The complaint was first reported by the Buffalo News.
Robertson, reached Monday, declined comment and said she would stick with the statement issued by Jordanna Zeigler, her campaign manager, over the weekend.
That statement accused Republicans of a "desperate smokescreen to distract the public from the problems of Congressman Tom Reed, who appears to have allowed a law firm controlled by his family to use his name and receive profits in clear violation of House ethics rules.''
On Monday, Reed called that accusation "out of bounds'' and said it represented an attack on his family members.
"She references my family's businesses,'' Reed said. "I would assume that's my entire family. I interpret that to be my kids, my wife, my brother, sister, relatives.''
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee announced Monday that Robertson is among 16 Democratic candidates included in their "Red to Blue'' program for top candidates in congressional districts currently controlled by Republicans. The candidates are offered "financial, communications, grassroots, and strategic support,'' the DCCC said.