- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 7, 2004

The House ethics committee last night rebuked House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, Texas Republican, for the second time in a week, but spared him a lengthy panel investigation.

The bipartisan House Standards of Official Conduct Committee admonished Mr. DeLay in a report for two actions — creating the appearance of contributors gaining special access to him, and improperly communicating with U.S. aviation authorities for political purposes.

“[I]t is clearly necessary for you to temper your future actions to assure that you are in full compliance,” read a letter to Mr. DeLay released by the ethics panel.

The panel already had admonished Mr. DeLay publicly, chastising him last week for pressuring a Michigan Republican to vote in favor of the Medicare bill last year by offering to endorse his son, who was running for Congress.

In this case, Rep. Chris Bell, Texas Democrat, had filed three accusations against the majority leader in June. The panel handled two of the charges with the letter of admonishment and did not act on the third.

In a lengthy statement, Mr. DeLay said he will accept the committee’s guidance, but said it did the right thing in dismissing Mr. Bell’s “embellished allegations.”

“For years, Democrats have hurled relentless personal attacks at me, hoping to tie my hands and smear my name. All have fallen short,” Mr. DeLay said, adding that Mr. Bell “intentionally misstated law and facts and violated the spirit and letter of House Ethics Rules.”

Mr. Bell accused Mr. DeLay of soliciting campaign money from Westar Energy Inc., a Kansas-based energy company, in exchange for political favors.

The panel disagreed, finding that Westar’s $25,000 donation to Mr. DeLay’s political action committee in May 2002 was legal and not proof of corruption. But it said Mr. DeLay’s involvement in an energy company fund-raiser the next month did “raise an appearance of impropriety” by creating the appearance that donors were being given special access.

Mr. Bell also said Mr. DeLay improperly used a federal agency when he asked the Federal Aviation Administration to help track down a plane carrying Texas Democrats who were trying to prevent the congressional redistricting plan there.

The panel said it had “serious concerns” over this, but said the admonishing letter was sufficient.

Mr. Bell also accused Mr. DeLay of funneling corporate political contributions on the part of his political action committee — Texans for a Republican Majority — for illegal use in state political races. Last month, three associates of Mr. DeLay were indicted in Texas over these charges, but the lawmaker himself was not mentioned.

The panel essentially said this is not a matter for them to handle while legal action is pending.

Other Republicans were quick to attack Mr. Bell and Democrats over the matter as well.

“Chris Bell has obviously exploited the ethics process,” said Rep. Thomas M. Reynolds, New York Republican and chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee. “Shame on Chris Bell.”

The ethics committee in its report said it would look into Mr. DeLay’s charge that the Bell complaint violates House rules by including innuendo and speculative assertions.

A lawyer for Mr. DeLay said he is sending a letter to the House Rules Committee chairman today complaining of Mr. Bell’s actions.

For their part, House Democrats have planned a news conference for this morning to denounce Mr. DeLay and the ethics panel’s report.

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