DeLay's admonishmentAustin American Statesman Editorial Board.
Monday, October 04, 2004
News that the U.S. House ethics committee on Thursday issued a "public admonishment" against House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Sugar Land, was overwhelmed by news about the presidential debate and Iraqi attacks that killed 35 children in Baghdad. Somebody connected with the committee must have a fine sense of timing.
Nevertheless, the usually spineless committee did officially admonish DeLay and Rep. Candice Miller, R-Mich., for trying to pressure another Michigan Republican, Rep. Nick Smith, into changing his vote against a landmark Medicare bill last November by linking it to political support for Smith's son, who was running for a House seat. The younger Smith eventually lost. The committee, however, also admonished Rep. Smith, saying he exaggerated the strength of the attempts to influence his vote and did not fully cooperate with its investigation.
According to the committee's findings, DeLay "offered to endorse Representative Smith's son in exchange for Representative Smith's vote in favor of the Medicare bill." That offer, from a majority leader popularly known as "The Hammer" for his hard-nosed political ways, was against House rules, the committee said.
Perhaps having other, much more serious ethical problems prompted DeLay's decision to accept the committee's findings and move on, though it was of the "I didn't screw up, and I won't do it again" variety.
"During my entire career I have worked to advance my party's legislative agenda," DeLay said. "However, to this end, I would never knowingly violate the rules of the House."
Miller also accepted the admonishment.
Still pending before the House ethics committee is a complaint from a Texas Democrat, lame duck Rep. Chris Bell of Houston, who accused DeLay of illegally funneling corporate campaign contributions into Texas legislative races, trading legislative favors for contributions and improperly using his influence as majority leader to get federal agents to track down Texas Democratic lawmakers. The lawmakers fled the state as a parliamentary tactic to stop a congressional redistricting plan. (Bell was effectively redistricted out of his job.)
The ethics committee, with an equal number of Democratic and Republican members, apparently is deadlocked over Bell's complaint. An independent counsel should be brought in to examine the charges.
Three men doing political campaign work for DeLay recently were indicted in Travis County on felony charges related to their fund-raising for DeLay's successful campaign to redraw congressional district lines in Texas to boost the number of GOP House seats. The district attorney's investigation continues — and the ethics committee should start one, with an independent counsel.