WASHINGTON -- The House Energy and Commerce Committee announced yesterday that it is launching an investigation of the municipal bond market to determine if federal regulation should be tightened and if the so-called Tower amendment should be repealed.

The probe, started in response to the recent scandals over political influence peddling involving bond deals in New Jersey and New York City, was announced in a three-page letter to Mary Schapiro, acting chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission; Christopher Taylor, executive director of the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board; and Joseph Hardiman, president of the National Association of Securities Dealers.

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