A House committee has delayed its decision over a complaint alleging a member of the House tried to bribe his opponent in the June primary. 

The House Ethics Committee met for an hour this afternoon, then asked a lawyer to provide them more information about previous ethics complaints filed against legislators. The panel is wrestling with the question of whether candidates running against members of the House can file complaints against House members that would be reviewed in public by the House Ethics Committee. If the panel decides the complaint is valid, would it prompt other candidates challenging House incumbents to file ethics complaints, just for the sake of gaining attention?

The committee will meet again Monday and review the legal precedent. Representative Scott Raecker (RACK-er), a Republican from Urbandale, was first to suggest the delay, to gather more information.

“There have been very few, in my term here, complaints filed. We take every one of them extremely seriously,” Raecker said. “…They are absolutely gut-wrenching, to make sure we do the right thing.”

At issue is an allegation from college student Jake Highfill. He says Representative Erik Helland, a Republican from Johnston, offered to get Highfill a job and pay Highfill money if Highfill agreed not to run against Helland in the June primary.

“The conundrum is complicated,” said Representative Kevin Koester, a Republican from Ankeny who is chairman of the House Ethics Committee.

On Monday, committee will reconvene to decide whether the Republican candidate running against Representative Helland has legal standing to file the bribery complaint. Representative Mark Smith, a Democrat from Marshalltown who’s also a member of the Ethics Committee, sees irony.

“We’re receiving a dose of our own medicine. We write law,” Smith said during the committee meeting. “…It ultimately will be our challenge to determine what those words actually mean.”

Neither Representative Helland or Highfill attended the committee meeting. Helland, in a written statement, has “strongly” denied the allegation that he tried to bribe Highfill not to run against him.