- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 28, 2004


The House ethics committee will investigate Rep. Jim McDermott, Washington Democrat, to determine whether he violated standards of conduct when an illegally recorded telephone conversation was leaked to reporters during a committee investigation.

Committee Chairman Joel Hefley, Colorado Republican, and ranking Democrat Alan B. Mollohan of West Virginia formed a four-member subcommittee yesterday to investigate the 1997 incident. Mr. McDermott was the ranking Democrat on the ethics committee at the time, and the panel had been investigating the conduct of Speaker Newt Gingrich, Georgia Republican.

Mr. McDermott’s chief of staff, Jan Shinpoch, said the congressman had been advised of the investigation but had not been asked for any information.

“We’ll wait to hear from the committee,” she said.

The incident began when a Florida couple taped Rep. John A. Boehner of Ohio, who was using his cell phone to discuss the Gingrich case with other Republicans. The tape ended up in Mr. McDermott’s hands and subsequently was leaked to reporters.

Mr. Boehner sued Mr. McDermott in federal court. U.S. District Judge Thomas Hogan concluded earlier this year that Mr. McDermott was responsible for the leak and ordered him to pay Mr. Boehner for “willful and knowing misconduct” that “rises to the level of malice.” Mr. Boehner said the payment could total about $600,000, including his legal fees.

Mr. Boehner’s spokesman said yesterday that he would have no further comment while the matter is pending.

Mr. McDermott is challenging the ruling in a federal appeals court.

Responding to a complaint filed by Rep. David L. Hobson, Ohio Republican, Mr. Hefley and Mr. Mollohan said the subcommittee would consider whether “McDermott’s conduct violated the House Code of Official Conduct,” which requires members to conduct themselves “at all times in a manner which shall reflect creditably on the House of Representatives.”

The investigative panel also will consider whether Mr. McDermott ran afoul of a government ethics code and committee rules barring improper disclosures and protecting confidential information.

Rep. Judy Biggert, Illinois Republican, will lead the panel. Other members are Reps. Lucille Roybal-Allard, California Democrat; Phil English, Pennsylvania Republican; and Robert C. Scott, Virginia Democrat. The subcommittee will report its findings to the full ethics panel.

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