- The Washington Times - Friday, October 1, 2004


House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, admonished Thursday by the House ethics committee for using improper bargaining to try to persuade a fellow Republican to change his vote on a Medicare prescription drug bill, could face another investigation by the panel.

The committee still must decide whether to dismiss or appoint an investigative subcommittee to probe a separate three-part complaint against Mr. DeLay, Texas Republican, filed by Rep. Chris Bell, Texas Democrat.

The complaint says Mr. DeLay misused his office and federal resources for political purposes related to elections and redistricting in Texas. The 10-member committee, divided along party lines, is under no deadline to make that decision.

The committee on Thursday approved an investigative report that serves as “a public admonishment” of Mr. DeLay, Rep. Candice S. Miller, Michigan Republican, and the lawmaker they were trying to influence, Rep. Nick Smith, Michigan Republican.

The committee found after its six-month investigation that Mr. DeLay and Mrs. Miller linked a favorable vote by Mr. Smith to support of the House candidacy of Mr. Smith’s son, but that Mr. Smith went too far in saying that financial support was offered.

The public admonishments issued in the case of Mr. Smith’s Medicare vote are the lightest punishment the ethics committee can issue when it finds House rules have been violated.

The investigation, by a four-member subcommittee, was triggered when the retiring Mr. Smith said that unidentified lawmakers and business interests promised substantial money to his son’s congressional campaign if he voted for the Medicare legislation.

Mr. Smith said the same interests threatened to support other candidates if he didn’t change his vote from “no” to “yes.”

He was not persuaded and stuck with his vote against the legislation in the Nov. 22, 2003, tally that ended at 5:51 a.m. The legislation passed the House by five votes.

It is common for lawmakers to trade legislative votes to get legislation passed, the committee said. However, promising political support for a member’s relative “goes beyond the boundaries of party discipline and should not be used as the basis of a bargain for members to achieve their respective goals,” the committee said.

Mr. DeLay said he accepted the committee’s guidance that linking official actions with political considerations is not permissible and violates House rules.

“During my entire career I have worked to advance my party’s legislative agenda. However, to this end, I would never knowingly violate the rules of the House,” he said. “I deeply believe that as members of the House we must conduct ourselves at all times in a manner that reflects creditably on this institution.”

Mrs. Miller said she accepted “their findings that I may have committed a ‘discreet violation of the rules.’ I also agree with the committee’s finding that there was no evidence adduced of a pattern of misconduct.”

House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi yesterday said Mr. DeLay’s conduct has created an ethical cloud over the Capitol.

“It was an offer of a quid pro quo, a political quid pro quo for a vote, and that is completely inappropriate, and if that isn’t clear to everyone then we really have a problem here in Washington, D.C.,” the California Democrat said.

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