Hastings says ethics panel won't investigate DeLay
WASHINGTON — Rep. Doc Hastings, the Washington state Republican who chairs the House ethics committee, touched off a political controversy this week with statements supporting embattled Rep. Tom DeLay, R-Texas.
Hastings told the Yakima Herald-Republic that his committee would not investigate a 15-month-old complaint about DeLay's role in alleged illegal campaign contributions in Texas.
Such an investigation would duplicate the work of the Texas district attorney who obtained indictments against DeLay over the fund-raising issue, Hastings said. "We don't have the resources," he added.
A Hastings spokeswoman later said the congressman wasn't ruling out an investigation after the criminal case.
In the Yakima interview, Hastings also suggested that the case brought by Travis County prosecutor Ronnie Earle in Austin, Texas, is a Democratic partisan move.
"If you look at Ronnie Earle's background, he's done these things," Hastings said. "The majority leader has said this is a political vendetta."
DeLay stepped down as House majority leader after the first indictment, for criminal conspiracy, was handed up last week. He was indicted on two money-laundering counts this week.
Hastings' comments were criticized by Democrats and some public-interest groups.
"It's outrageous for the chairman of the ethics committee to virtually endorse the idea that the indictment is a political vendetta. It's a matter that is before the committee," said Norman Ornstein, a congressional scholar at the conservative American Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C.
Chris Bell, a former Texas Democratic representative who filed the ethics complaint against DeLay in June 2004, accused Hastings of using his chairmanship to protect the former Republican leader.
Shortly after the complaint was filed, the committee voted unanimously to defer action on the matter until the criminal investigation was complete.
"They said they would hold off, but they agreed to review it later," said Bell, now running for governor in Texas.
Hastings spokeswoman Jessica Gleason said Hastings didn't say the panel wouldn't take up the DeLay complaint.
"Congressman Hastings was simply referring to the ethics committee's longstanding practice of deferring action on matters being prosecuted by state or federal authorities until the judicial process has run its course," Gleason said.
She also said the panel couldn't afford to duplicate investigations.
Once the criminal prosecution is finished, Gleason said, "An adequate investigative record can be made available to the committee without the need to go out and reinvent the wheel."
Rep. Joel Hefley, the former ethics-panel chairman, recalled a previous case in which criminal and ethics investigations occurred simultaneously.
"We went to the DOJ [Department of Justice] and kind of got permission to continue with an investigation that we were very deeply into," said Hefley, R-Colo., ousted from the ethics chairmanship by GOP leaders in January.
Ornstein said Hastings' comment about a lack of resources "does not wash" in light of a 40 percent budget increase for the panel in April.
Hastings lobbied for the money to create a more "ethical culture" in the House.
Fred Wertheimer, president of Democracy 21, a Washington, D.C., public advocacy group that specializes in campaign-finance reform, said the ethics panel could investigate at least seven issues involving DeLay.
Six other congressmen also are facing ethics probes. They include Jim McDermott, D-Wash., who gave an illegal tape recording of a phone call to the media in 1997.
The committee has not met formally since May, when Hastings caused a stalemate over partisan staffing issues. The panel will not have a full investigative staff in place for another month.
Hastings received $4,500 from DeLay's political-action committee, ARMPAC, in 1994; he received a $1,400 in-kind contribution from ARMPAC in 1998.
Public-interest groups have called on Hastings and others, including Rep. Dave Reichert, R-Wash., to return money they received from DeLay or his PACs. Reichert has received $20,000 from DeLay.
- Senator Wants DUI Charges Dismissed Citing that Lawmakers are "Privileged from Arrest"
- State Department Rep. On Flogging Of Saudi Blogger: US "Not In The Business Of Demanding Things" From Other Countries
- Rapper 2 Chainz Takes On Nancy Grace In Pot Debate
- So Much for Freedom of Speech in France
- Major Chicago Study Finds Red Light Cameras Not Safer, Cause More Rear-End Injuries
- Tennessee Town Passes Policy Banning Negative Comments About The Town's Government
- On Marijuana, Congress Giveth and Congress Taketh Away
- IRS Finally Examines Backup Tapes, Recovers 30,000 'Missing' Lois Lerner Emails
FAIR USE NOTICE
This site contains copyrighted material the use of which in some cases has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. Such material is made available for the purposes of news reporting, education, research, comment, and criticism, which constitutes a 'fair use' of such copyrighted material in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner. It is our policy to respond to notices of alleged infringement that comply with the DMCA and other applicable intellectual property laws. It is our policy to remove material from public view that we believe in good faith to be copyrighted material that has been illegally copied and distributed by any of our members or users.