- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 17, 2006

From combined dispatches

The House ethics committee yesterday ended 16 months of inaction, opening investigations of a Republican and a Democrat who are subjects of federal bribery inquiries.

Rep. Bob Ney, an Ohio Republican connected to disgraced casino lobbyist Jack Abramoff, will be investigated along with Rep. William J. Jefferson, Louisiana Democrat. A former aide to Mr. Ney pleaded guilty last week, admitting he tried to corrupt his former boss. Two businessmen have pleaded guilty to bribing Mr. Jefferson, and a former aide also pleaded guilty in that case earlier this year.

The committee also will conduct a preliminary inquiry of whether other lawmakers were involved in a bribery scandal that led to the conviction of former Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham, California Republican.

In another announcement, the committee said it would have investigated overseas travel by former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, but will not do so because the Texas Republican has announced that he will resign from Congress next month. The panel does not have jurisdiction over lawmakers once they leave Congress.

The statement also notes that no vote on Mr. DeLay has been taken by the committee during the 109th Congress, even though the former ranking member — Rep. Alan B. Mollohan, the West Virginia Democrat who recently stepped off the committee amid ethics charges — could have called for such a vote.

“The political double talk by the Democrats is astounding,” said Ron Bonjean, spokesman for House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert. “Congressman Mollohan could have asked the ethics committee to vote to investigate Rep. DeLay at any time, yet he chose not to and blamed Republicans instead.”

In a statement, Mr. Ney said he welcomed the investigation.

“For the last 15 months, all I have asked for is an opportunity to have the facts surrounding the Abramoff matter to be reviewed by the appropriate investigative bodies in order to have this matter addressed once and for all,” said Mr. Ney, who stepped down from his post as House Administration Committee chairman because of an investigation by the Justice Department.

Mr. Jefferson’s office had no immediate comment. The lawmaker previously has denied wrongdoing.

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