DeLay launches counterattackHouse leader charges libel, abuse of ethics process after complaint
By MICHELLE MITTELSTADT, Dallas Morning News
October 9, 2004
WASHINGTON – Going on the counterattack, House Majority Leader Tom DeLay is accusing the Texas congressman and watchdog group that pressed an ethics complaint against him of libel and abuse of the ethics process.
The House's No. 2 leader, who has been publicly rebuked by the House ethics committee twice in the last week, is urging the House to revise its ethics process to bar filings by lawmakers leaving Congress or involvement by outside groups. (Only members of Congress can file ethics complaints with the committee.)
And, in a 33-page memo to the chairman of the House Rules Committee, Mr. DeLay's attorney suggested the possibility of contempt charges against Rep. Chris Bell, D-Houston, and Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, which helped Mr. Bell draft the complaint. The lawyer, Ed Bethune, denounced the complaint as "not only false and devoid of any actual evidence of wrongdoing" but also "laden with innuendo."
Mr. Bell, who lost in the March primary after Mr. DeLay championed redistricting changes to add more GOP seats, insists Mr. DeLay, R-Sugar Land, is engaged in a "shoot the messenger" strategy.
And the outside groups that urged an ethics investigation said Friday that the powerful Texan, famous for his take-no-prisoners style, is abusing his power by seeking action against Mr. Bell and CREW.
"DeLay's heavy-handed attempt to silence his critics is troubling," said Craig McDonald of Texans for Public Justice. "This seems to be an instant rewriting of history. How can the complaint not be justified when the ethics committee reprimanded Tom DeLay?"
The 10-member ethics committee, split between Republicans and Democrats, on Wednesday unanimously admonished Mr. DeLay for using the Federal Aviation Administration to track down Texas Democrats who bolted the statehouse during a redistricting battle last year, and for creating the appearance of giving political contributors special access on the eve of consideration of a major energy bill. The committee did not rule on the third part of Mr. Bell's complaint, which deals with fundraising, pending resolution of a campaign finance probe in Austin.
In a separate case, the ethics committee last week admonished Mr. DeLay for offering a political endorsement in exchange for a House member's vote on the Medicare prescription drug bill.
"I can only imagine this has got to be a little troubling to the ethics committee that now Mr. DeLay is trying to use his power to intimidate private citizens," said Melanie Sloan, CREW executive director.