- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 4, 2005

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Two Republicans on the House ethics committee will not participate in any probe of Majority Leader Tom DeLay because they contributed to the Texan’s legal-defense funds, the committee’s chairman said yesterday.

Rep. Doc Hastings said Reps. Lamar Smith of Texas and Tom Cole of Oklahoma agreed that the past contributions “raised doubts — however unwarranted — about whether those members would be able to judge fairly allegations of impropriety against Mr. DeLay.”

Mr. DeLay has asked the committee to review his travel records and said he would turn over a decade’s worth of documents to the committee. Mr. DeLay also has asked to appear before the panel.

Before a deal on the committee’s investigative rules was reached, Mr. Hastings, Washington Republican, had offered to begin a formal investigation of Mr. DeLay. But it is expected that any inquiry at this point would begin with a preliminary review before a formal investigation.

The withdrawal of Mr. Smith and Mr. Cole from any DeLay investigation would lead Mr. Hastings to ask House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, Illinois Republican, to designate two House members to fill in temporarily for that case.

The House will have a 20-member pool, 10 members from each party, to allow the speaker to choose temporary committee members.

The Associated Press and other news organizations have reported that lobbyist Jack Abramoff initially paid travel expenses for Mr. DeLay and some of his aides, as well as for some Democratic lawmakers.

While House members and employees are barred from accepting trip expenses from lobbyists, Mr. DeLay and others said they were not aware that Mr. Abramoff was paying the bill.

Mr. Abramoff, who had ties with numerous members of Congress including Mr. DeLay, is under federal investigation for his representation of Indian tribes with casinos.

Mr. DeLay told reporters yesterday that he would prefer that the committee “set up a process by which a member can go to them and submit a proposed invitation on a trip — whether it be foreign or domestic — and the ethics committee approve or disapprove it.”

“Then everybody knows what is proper and isn’t proper. I think that is the best way to go. I’m not suggesting that. I’m not pushing it. I’m asking the ethics committee to look at this as a problem for the institution,” Mr. DeLay said.

Mr. Hastert added, “I think there needs to be real guidance by the committee about what is acceptable and what is not acceptable.”

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