|Tom DeLay- Corporate Whore|
AUSTIN -- Four of the five Republicans investigating an ethics complaint against House Majority Leader Tom DeLay have received campaign contributions from DeLay's political action committee, records show.
The contributions -- $28,504 split among the four during the past seven years -- were all delivered before the ethics committee received the DeLay complaint June 15. But it is an example of awkward situations spawned by the U.S. House's decision to police itself on ethics.
"I think all the members hate" serving on the committee, said Larry Noble, executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan government watchdog.
"You're put in the position of either doing nothing -- which is what they generally do -- in which case you are fairly criticized for not taking your job seriously. On the other hand, you can try to enforce the rules and get all the other members angry at you," Noble told today's Austin American-Statesman.
Though they would not comment on the record, those associated with the ethics committee, officially known as the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, disagree.
• Complaint filed by U.S. Rep. Chris Bell against U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay -- Small PDF file.
• Exhibits and complaint -- Large PDF file, 10MB
• House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct
PDF files require the free Adobe Acrobat Reader.
Rep. Chris Bell, D-Houston, has claimed DeLay illegally solicited campaign contributions in return for legislative favors and laundered illegal corporate contributions for use in Texas elections. Bell also alleged that DeLay improperly used his office to solicit help from federal agencies in searching for Democratic legislators who slipped out of Texas during last year's redistricting fight.
DeLay, who says the charges are unfounded and amateurish, has until July 22 to formally answer the complaint, if he wishes.
The ethics panel meetings are closed to the public and investigations are rarely acknowledged. All participants -- from the 10 representatives to the newest clerk -- must swear to reveal nothing confidential.
It is the only House committee with an equal number of Democrats and Republicans. Equal representation is designed to derail purely partisan attacks. To move forward, a complaint must sway at least one member of the opposition party.
Rep. Lamar Smith, R-San Antonio, served four years on the ethics committee, including two as chairman, and said trumping party loyalty can be difficult.
Investigating DeLay could magnify the uncomfortable moments because he is more than a financial patron of four committee members; as the House's second-ranking Republican, he's also their boss, Noble said.
DeLay is his party's most prolific fund-raiser in the House. His political action committee, Americans for a Republican Majority, has raised almost $2.7 million during this election cycle, spreading $623,000 among 75 House candidates, many of them incumbents.
House Democratic leaders also give freely to members of their caucus.
The breakdown of recipients of the PAC's cash among the ethics committee members, according to Federal Election Commission records from 1997 through May 2004, is:
• $14,777 for Rep. Kenny Hulshof of Missouri. The latest contributions, totaling $9,000, were in 2000.
• $10,553 for Rep. Steven LaTourette of Ohio, with $10,000 coming this year.
• $1,764 for Rep. Judy Biggert of Illinois in 1998.
• $1,410 for Rep. Doc Hastings of Washington, also in 1998.
• Chairman Joel Hefley of Colorado received no money from DeLay's political action committee.
The committee's next public step will be to dismiss the charges or to create an investigative subcommittee -- with two Republicans and two Democrats -- a decision that must be made by the first week of August, though more time can be requested.
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