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PHOTO: Car dealership owner and U.S. Rep. Roger Williams, an Austin Republican, at the construction site of the Bush Presidential Library in Dallas on October 3, 2011. PHOTO by BOB DAEMMRICH/THE TEXAS TRIBUNE

by PATRICK SVITEK

WASHINGTON — Congressional ethics investigators have decided to take a further look at U.S. Rep. Roger Williams, an Austin Republican who represents western Hays County, over a legislative amendment he pushed that allegedly benefited his car dealership.

The House Ethics Committee announced Thursday that it is extending its review of Williams after receiving a referral earlier this year from the Office of Congressional Ethics. Williams, who owns Roger Williams Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram in Weatherford, has denied any wrongdoing.

Last year, Williams offered the amendment to transportation legislation, and the House passed it on a voice vote. In effect, the amendment exempted companies that do not “primarily” rent cars, such as Williams’ dealership, from a prohibition on using vehicles under safety recall.

The Office of Congressional Ethics said it found “substantial reason to believe that Representative Williams’ personal financial interest in his auto dealership may be perceived as having influenced his performance of official duties.”

In a response Thursday, Williams lawyer Chris Gober attributed the allegations to a “simple misunderstanding.” Gober said Williams was not in a position to financially benefit from the amendment because his dealership does not directly rent cars but sets up rentals through a nearby Enterprise location.

The options now before the committee include finding Williams violated House ethics rules, determining he did not or creating an investigative subcommittee to launch a broader probe.

Map

Texas CD-25 encompasses eight counties and portions of five others, stretching from Wimberley and Dripping Springs in western Hays County to the outskirts of Fort Worth in Tarrant County.

PATRICK SVITEK reports for The Texas Tribune where this story was originally published. It is made available here through a news partnership between the Texas Tribune and the San Marcos Mercury.

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