Wednesday, May 4, 2005

House Republicans called Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi a hypocrite yesterday for not demanding investigations into new ethics questions that have arisen about the travel of her fellow Democrats.

“She demanded an investigation into [Majority Leader] Tom DeLay, but hasn’t said a word about these Democrats who have done the same thing,” said Rep. Patrick T. McHenry, North Carolina Republican. “If she doesn’t call for investigations into her fellow Democrats, then it’s clear she’s being a hypocrite.”

Republicans are wondering why the California representative won’t ask for investigations into Democratic Reps. Norm Dicks of Washington, Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, James E. Clyburn of South Carolina and Neil Abercrombie of Hawaii, all of whom face questions about accepting travel paid for by lobbyists.

“As we expressed in earlier letters, Madame Leader, it appears more and more that your repeated calls for an investigation of Mr. DeLay are more driven by politics than by any real concern for the House rules,” Mr. McHenry, with two other Republicans, wrote in a letter to Mrs. Pelosi yesterday.

Despite urging from Republicans, Mrs. Pelosi refused to call for any investigations of her Democratic colleagues.

“The Republicans are yet again attempting to muddy the waters to divert attention from their pattern of abusing of power,” spokeswoman Jennifer Crider said yesterday.

Mr. Dicks said earlier this week that a five-day trip he took to Miami this year was paid for by a defense lobbying firm without his knowledge. Upon learning that Alexandria-based Spectrum Group had paid some of the expenses, Mr. Dicks offered to pay the $985 out of pocket, his spokesman said.

Mr. Thompson and Mr. Clyburn got embroiled in the ethics battle when the Associated Press discovered documents showing that their travels in 1997 to the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) had been paid for by a lobbyist.

That lobbyist, Jack Abramoff, is under federal investigation and has been at the heart of questions surrounding travel by Mr. DeLay. Despite evidence showing that Mr. Abramoff paid for travel by Mr. DeLay, the Texas Republican said he never knowingly allowed any lobbyist to pay for his trips.

Similarly, Mr. Thompson and Mr. Clyburn filed travel disclosure reports stating that a nonprofit organization paid for their trip and said they had no idea that Mr. Abramoff — or his firm at the time, Preston Gates & Ellis LLP — had footed the bill.

In addition to bills totaling $5,240 for Mr. Thompson’s travel and $4,823 for Mr. Clyburn’s, the lobbyists also paid for the travel of two DeLay aides, according to records obtained by AP. In December 1996, the lobbyists paid $2,132 in travel expenses for DeLay Chief of Staff Ed Buckham and staffer Tony Rudy.

Gregg Hilton, an official with the nonprofit listed on Mr. Thompson’s and Mr. Clyburn’s travel forms, told AP that the group never reimbursed the lobbyists. Mr. Hilton, who was on the trip, also said the lawmakers were never told that the now-defunct group, the National Security Caucus Foundation, would be footing the bills.

Mr. Hilton and a DeLay spokesman said the CNMI government was supposed to have paid the bill, which is allowed under House ethics rules.

Also recently ensnared in the ethics fight is Mr. Abercrombie, who blamed a clerical error for a travel disclosure form he filed stating that a lobbyist paid for a 2001 trip to Boston.

In an ABC interview Sunday, Mrs. Pelosi dismissed questions about travel by Democrats, telling interviewer George Stephanopoulos: “Do not fall into a Republican trap of equating technicalities on reporting, timing of reporting with not upholding an ethical standard of the House.”

Republicans see a double standard.

“What is a ‘technicality’ for her requires a full-scale investigation for others,” said National Republican Congressional Committee spokesman Carl Forti.

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