University refusing to help with probe

By William Lowther  /  Staff reporter in Washington

Fri, Feb 08, 2013 - Page 4

The Chinese Culture University has refused to cooperate with a US congressional ethics investigation into a trip Democratic Representative William Owens and his wife took to Taipei from Dec. 27, 2011, to Jan. 1 last year.

As a result, the review of the controversial trip has been extended. A “confidential” report issued on Wednesday by the US’ Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) asks for further investigation. The House of Representatives Ethics Committee said the preliminary investigations would continue, but it stopped short of launching a formal subcommittee to look into the charges.

As reported by the Taipei Times last year, Owens has been accused of making the four-day trip — which cost a total of US$22,000 — while hiding the true financing.

Owens has denied any wrongdoing and insisted that he made the trip in an effort to bring high-tech investment to his district in Plattsburg, New York.

On Wednesday, he said he expected the probe to exonerate him and reiterated that he had paid back the cost of the trip.

He told the committee that the trip was paid for by the Chinese Culture University, but an OCE investigation found the bills were paid by the New York firm Park Strategies. The firm is a lobbyist for Taiwan’s government.

Under congressional rules, members are not allowed to take trips paid for by lobbyists.

Evidence has been published alleging that Park Strategies paid for Owens and his wife to fly first class, stay in the best hotels and eat in some of the most expensive restaurants, while making it look as if the bills were being picked up by the university.