Thursday, October 07, 2004

Another slap on the wrist

From this mornings WaPo:

The House ethics committee last night admonished Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) for asking federal aviation officials to track an airplane involved in a Texas political spat, and for conduct that suggested political donations might influence legislative action.

The two-pronged rebuke marked the second time in six days -- and the third time overall -- that the ethics panel has admonished the House's second-ranking Republican. The back-to-back chastisements are highly unusual for any lawmaker, let alone one who aspires to be speaker, and some watchdog groups called on him to resign his leadership post.

The ethics committee, five Republicans and five Democrats who voted unanimously on the findings, concluded its seven-page letter to DeLay by saying: "In view of the number of instances to date in which the committee has found it necessary to comment on conduct in which you have engaged, it is clearly necessary for you to temper your future actions to assure that you are in full compliance at all times with the applicable House rules and standards of conduct."
The ethics panel faulted DeLay's actions in asking the Federal Aviation Administration last year to help locate a private plane that Republicans thought was carrying Texas Democratic legislators. Some Democratic lawmakers were leaving the state to prevent a quorum that Republicans needed in Austin to pass a bitterly disputed congressional redistricting plan engineered by DeLay. DeLay's staff asked an FAA official to help find the plane in a bid to force the legislators back to the capital.

The ethics report cited House rules that bar members from taking "any official action on the basis of the partisan affiliation . . . of the individuals involved." It noted that the FAA official later said he felt he "had been used" for political purposes. DeLay's role in the matter "raises serious concerns under these standards of conduct," the report said.
The committee also admonished DeLay for his dealings with top officers of Kansas-based Westar Energy Inc. Some of the officers wrote memos in 2002 citing their belief that $56,500 in campaign contributions to political committees associated with DeLay and other Republicans would get them "a seat at the table" where key legislation was being drafted.

For more on DeLay and the GOP money machine I highly recommend the three part series of articles in the Texas Observer. The Rise of the Machine, Scandal in the Speaker's Office and Rate of Exchange.

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