The offices of Indiana Rep. Pete Visclosky were subpoenaed last week regarding his efforts to secure earmarks for the PMA Group, the defunct lobbying group whose offices were raided by the FBI earlier this year. Visclosky has now stated that he will step down from his post as Chair of the House Energy & Water Appropriations Subcommittee. He will follow in a long line of lawmakers who stepped down from their committee posts when they found themselves under investigation.
Rep. Alan Mollohan stepped down as Chair of the House Ethics Committee after the FBI launched an investigation into his earmarking and personal finances. Mollohan also recused himself from all decisions related to Department of Justice funding in his role as Chair of the Commerce, Justice, & Science Appropriations Subcommittee. The investigation of Mollohan is ongoing. Rep. Bob Ney stepped down from his post as Chair of the Committee on House Administration after being pressured by party leaders. Ney eventually resigned from Congress and pled guilty to corrupt activities that involved Jack Abramoff.
Rep. John Doolittle left the House Appropriations Committee after his house and offices were raided by the FBI. Doolittle retired from Congress and the investigation, related to the Abramoff scandal, is still underway.
Rep. Don Young refused to step down from his post as ranking member on the House Natural Resources Committee despite an ongoing investigaiton into his connections to Alaska oil companies. After the 2008 election, Young finally stepped down after it was clear his party would oust him in a vote. The investigation of Young is still ongoing.
Rep. Rick Renzi stepped down from his post on the House Intelligence Committee after his house and office were raided. Renzi retired from Congress after he was brought up on a 35-count indictment.
Sen. Ted Stevens stepped down from his commmittee posts after he was brought up on a seven-count indictment. Stevens would be convicted on all counts, but that conviction would later be thrown out by the Justice Department due to prosecutorial misconduct.
Some lawmakers haven't been so keen to remove themselves from their coveted positions. Rep. Jerry Lewis did not step down when he was Chair of the House Appropriations Committee despite being under investigation. Lewis is still the ranking member on the committee and still earmarking to the clients of the same lobbyists that got him in trouble in the first place. Rep. Charles Rangel is still the Chair of the House Ways & Means Committee despite an ongoing investigation.
The calculation of stepping down is usually a measure of political viability for the party and the individual lawmaker under investigation. In Visclosky's case, this is a powerful PR move for him. Will it pay off? The record of what happens to those stepping down from committee posts doesn't look so promising.