|Tom DeLay- Corporate Whore|
DeLay accused of abuses of power
By Sheryl Gay Stolberg
New York Times News Service
Published June 16, 2004
WASHINGTON -- A 7-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, House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas), of "bribery, extortion, fraud, money laundering and the abuse of power."
The Democrat, Rep. Chris Bell of Texas, who is leaving Congress because he lost a primary election, filed a 187-page complaint against DeLay with the House ethics committee. The complaint accuses DeLay of illegally soliciting campaign contributions, laundering campaign contributions to influence state legislative races and improperly using his office to influence federal agencies.
DeLay said "there is no substance" to the accusations.
The complaint is deeply intertwined with Texas politics. DeLay helped orchestrate redistricting of the state's congressional districts. Bell, who is white, was subsequently pushed into a district that is largely black and he lost to a black candidate. The accusations in Bell's complaint, which news organizations have raised, revolve in part around DeLay's actions in the redistricting.
The complaint makes three specific accusations: that 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 DeLay funneled contributions from one of his political action committees to the Republican National Committee "in an apparent money-laundering scheme," and that DeLay improperly exhorted federal agencies, including the Justice Department, to search for Texas state legislators when they fled to block a vote on redistricting.
DeLay said the charges were "all based on press clippings."
Bell, who called DeLay "the most corrupt politician in America today," said he had been preparing the complaint for months and his defeat had nothing to do with it.
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 five legislative days 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 (R-Ga.), the House approved rules to bar outsiders from filing ethics complaints. Those rules prompted what has been called an unofficial truce on ethics inquiries.
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 Dennis Hastert, who rarely grants interviews, took a surprise walk through the Speaker's Lobby, the corridor that runs alongside the House chamber where reporters congregate to interview members.
"The worry I have," Hastert said, "is that you again politicize the process, and it denigrates what ethics is all about."
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