Tuesday, May 9, 2006

Two House Republicans have called for Rep. Alan B. Mollohan to step down from the Appropriations Committee amid an ongoing ethics investigation.

Mr. Mollohan, West Virginia Democrat, has been accused of directing $178 million to nonprofits in his district whose leaders donated to his campaigns. He has denied any wrongdoing, but last month relinquished his position as the ranking Democrat on the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct.

Reps. John Carter and Louie Gohmert, both from Texas, asked House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California in a letter to request Mr. Mollohan give up his Appropriations committee post as well.

The members said Mrs. Pelosi should ask him to step down as ranking Democrat on the Appropriations subcommittee on Science, State, Justice and Commerce and Related Agencies.

They said the position puts Mr. Mollohan in the “untenable position of exercising jurisdiction and influence over the Justice Department, the very entity that is currently investigating him.”

“Codes of judicial ethics almost uniformly require judges to recuse themselves when there is even an appearance of possible impartiality or conflict of interest,” the members wrote.

House Majority Leader John A. Boehner said yesterday Mr. Mollohan’s resignation from the ethics committee was “clearly appropriate,” but doubted the usefulness of the member leaving the Appropriations Committee.

“I don’t know that that’s necessary at this point,” the Ohio Republican said yesterday.

Pelosi spokeswoman Jennifer Crider pointed out that Rep. Tom DeLay, the former majority leader who is under indictment, is still a member of the Appropriations Committee.

Miss Crider said she looks forward to reading letters from Mr. Carter and Mr. Gohmert to apply the “same standards” to Mr. DeLay, “Congressman [Bob] Ney, Congressman [John T.] Doolittle, and Congressman [Richard W.] Pombo,” naming Republican members — two from California and Mr. Ney of Ohio —who have been the subject of scandal.

“I must have missed their letter on former Congressman Cunningham, who was convicted of bribery,” she said.

Former Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham, California Republican, is now in federal prison and Mr. DeLay, the former majority leader from Texas, last month announced he will resign from the House in June.

Mr. Mollohan has served 24 years in Congress and is seeking re-election in November.

Mr. Boehner said he thinks the Justice Department should continue its investigations into several members from both parties and “let the chips fall where they may.”

“There are a lot of sad allegations out there that hurt all of us,” he said. “It doesn’t serve me and it doesn’t serve the institution well to pour gasoline on this fire.”

A call placed to Mr. Mollohan’s office yesterday was not returned.

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