DeLay to Be Subject of Ethics Complaint

DeLay to Be Subject of Ethics Complaint
Democrat’s Wide-Ranging Charges Break Unwritten Truce Between Parties
Charles Babington | June 15 | A05

A Democratic congressman plans to file a wide-ranging ethics complaint today against House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.), shattering the remnants of a seven-year-old, unwritten ethics truce between the two parties and possibly nudging the House back toward a brand of political warfare that helped topple two speakers.

Nick: More here.

The complaint, which Rep. Chris Bell (D-Tex.) said he will send to the House ethics committee, accuses the House’s second-ranking Republican of soliciting campaign contributions in return for legislative favors; laundering illegal campaign contributions through a Texas political action committee; and improperly involving a federal agency in a Texas partisan matter. The House’s top two Democrats raised no objections when Bell told them he would file the complaint, according to Bell’s office and party leadership aides.

A grand jury in Austin has been looking into the Texas PAC’s activities, although DeLay’s aides say there is no evidence he is a target of the probe. DeLay has denied wrongdoing in all the matters cited in Bell’s complaint.

“These are warmed-over and factually deficient allegations from a bitter partisan on his way out of office,” DeLay spokesman Jonathan Grella said yesterday. “This election-year scorched-earth strategy is doomed to fail, as have all previous attempts of this cynical and sad sort that make a mockery of the process.”

A DeLay ally, Rep. John T. Doolittle (R-Calif.), said Republicans “are going to have to respond in kind” by filing ethics charges against key Democrats. From now on, he said in an interview, it’s a matter of “you kill my dog, I’ll kill your cat.” Doolittle said he plans to file ethics charges against a prominent Democrat but would not name the target.

3 Replies to “DeLay to Be Subject of Ethics Complaint”

  1. New York Times

    June 16, 2004
    Complaint Ruptures 7-Year Truce in House

    WASHINGTON, June 15 – A seven-year-old unofficial truce discouraging House members from filing ethics complaints against one another disintegrated Tuesday when a freshman Democrat accused one of the most powerful members of Congress, the House majority leader, Tom DeLay, of “bribery, extortion, fraud, money laundering and the abuse of power.”

    The Democrat, Representative Chris Bell of Texas, who is leaving Congress because he lost a primary election, filed a 187-page complaint

    against Mr. DeLay, also of Texas, with the House ethics committee. The complaint accuses the majority leader of illegally soliciting campaign contributions, laundering campaign contributions to influence state legislative races and improperly using his office to influence federal agencies.

    Mr. DeLay said “there is no substance” to the accusations.

    The complaint is deeply intertwined with Texas politics. This year, Mr. DeLay helped orchestrate redistricting there. Mr. Bell, who is white, was subsequently pushed into a district that is largely black, and he lost the Democratic nomination to a black candidate. The accusations in Mr. Bell’s complaint, which news organizations had raised earlier, revolve in part around Mr. DeLay’s actions in the redistricting.

    The complaint makes three specific accusations, that Mr. DeLay traded contributions from the largest electric utility in Kansas, Westar Energy of Topeka, for help on measures that would save it billions of dollars; that Mr. DeLay funneled contributions from one of his political action committees to the Republican National Committee “in an apparent money-laundering scheme”; and that Mr. DeLay improperly exhorted federal agencies, including the Justice Department, to search for Texas state legislators when they fled to Oklahoma to avoid a debate on redistricting.

    Mr. DeLay said the charges were “all based on press clippings.” Of Mr. Bell, he said, “Evidently he is very bitter about his losing the primary, and he’s using the ethics committee to express his bitterness.”

    Mr. Bell, who called Mr. DeLay “the most corrupt politician in America today,” said that he had been preparing the complaint for months and that his defeat at the polls had nothing to do with it.

    “Tom DeLay,” Mr. Bell said, “has created a climate of fear and retribution inside the people’s House, and it must come to an end.”

    The complaint was drafted with the help of a watchdog group, the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. The ethics panel, formally called the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, has 14 calendar days or 5 days while the House is in session to determine whether it meets the threshold for consideration. After that, the panel can dismiss the complaint, decide to investigate or consider it for an additional 45 days.

    Since 1997, after politically charged ethics fights led to the resignation of one speaker, Jim Wright, another Texas Democrat, and a $300,000 fine against another speaker, Newt Gingrich, Republican of Georgia, the House approved rules to bar outsiders from filing ethics complaints. Those rules prompted what has been called an unofficial truce on ethics inquiries. Though there have been inquiries since then, they have been initiated by the ethics panel itself, not by individual House members.

    Mr. Bell’s action provoked a controversy between Democrats and Republicans over whether the truce should have been broken and questions about a possible retaliatory complaint against a Democrat.

    Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, who rarely grants interviews, made a surprise walk through the Speaker’s Lobby, the corridor that runs alongside the House chamber where reporters generally congregate to interview members.

    “The worry I have,” Mr. Hastert said, “is that you again politicize the process, and it denigrates what ethics is all about.”

    Representative Ray LaHood, Republican of Illinois, said, “This is the gotcha politics that ruins our system here in Washington.”

    Mr. LaHood said he was contemplating proposing a rule to prevent “lame-duck members” from filing ethics complaints and said Democratic leaders should tell Mr. Bell “to back off.”

    The Democratic whip, Representative Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland, said he supported Mr. Bell’s right to file the complaint.

    “I haven’t seen the complaint,” Mr. Hoyer said. “But from what I’ve read in the newspapers, it’s a substantive complaint.”


    Ethics Committee Ends DeLay Fact-Finding

    Tuesday September 21, 2004 12:16 AM


    Associated Press Writer

    WASHINGTON (AP) – House ethics committee leaders said Monday they soon will present the panel with information on Majority Leader Tom DeLay’s conduct and recommend whether to undertake a full investigation.

    The announcement from Chairman Joel Hefley, R-Colo., and Alan Mollohan, D-W.Va., did not say whether the committee would be convened this week on a complaint that DeLay misused his office for political purposes.

    “In the near future we will be presenting to the committee the information we have obtained and recommendations for committee action,” the written statement said.

    A three-part complaint was filed by a Democratic lawmaker defeated in the primary, Rep. Chris Bell of Texas. The 10-member committee, equally divided by party, could send the allegations to an investigative subcommittee, dismiss some allegations while ordering a probe of others or throw out the complaint.

    Two allegations directly involve use of DeLay’s congressional office.

    One accuses the Texas Republican of soliciting corporate contributions in return for help on legislation. A second contends he improperly used his staff to contact U.S. aviation authorities and ask them to track down Texas Democratic legislators who had fled the state while trying to thwart a DeLay-backed redistricting plan.

    The third allegation accuses DeLay of using his political action committees to distribute money from corporations to Texas legislative candidates in violation of state law.

    DeLay has replied to the committee, but has not released his response publicly.

    In related developments:

    -A grand jury in Austin, Texas, was expected to meet Tuesday in its investigation of election spending by a political action committee associated with DeLay, Texans for a Republican Majority. Bell’s complaint contends the same political committee sent $190,000 in corporate money to the Republican National Committee in an illegal scheme to give money to Texas state legislative candidates. The grand jury is looking into similar allegations.

    -Bell asked the ethics committee, formally the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, to subpoena a report that could provide insight into one of his allegations. The report, prepared for Westar Energy, investigated the company’s 2002 plan to influence pending federal legislation by making political donations.

    -A group seeking an independent investigator in the case ran newspaper ads this week in Hefley’s and Mollohan’s home states. The ads accuse the committee members of keeping their heads in the sand and “choosing to play ostrich rather than investigate” DeLay.

    Associated Press writer Suzanne Gamboa contributed to this report.


    On the Net:

    Committee on Standards of Official Conduct:


    Several Indicted in Texas PAC Probe

    Tuesday September 21, 2004 7:46 PM

    AUSTIN, Texas (AP) – Several people and corporations – including Sears and Cracker Barrel – were indicted Tuesday on charges of making illegal campaign contributions through a political action committee formed by U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay.

    DeLay, a Texas Republican, was not charged.

    The grand jury has been investigating whether corporate funds were used illegally to help Republican candidates win elections in 2002 that gave the GOP a majority in the Texas House for the first time since Reconstruction.

    Those charged included three members of DeLay’s PAC, Texans for a Republican Majority: John Colyandro, James Ellis and Warren RoBold.

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