Friday, April 7, 2006

Republicans called yesterday for the resignation of the highest-ranking Democrat on the House ethics committee over reports of a federal investigation into purported irregularities in his campaign finances.

Rep. Alan B. Mollohan of West Virginia is under investigation for steering $178 million in federal money to nonprofits in his district run by people who are regular contributors to his political campaigns.

“I believe it would be prudent at this point for Mr. Mollohan to resign from the ethics committee until this investigation is completed,” said Rep. Thomas M. Reynolds, New York Republican and chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee.

The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday that investigators are looking into Mr. Mollohan’s campaign finances and whether they have been properly disclosed. Mr. Mollohan also sits on the powerful House Appropriations Committee.

The congressman said he has done nothing wrong and said the complaints are based in partisanship.

“I am proud of the nonprofit groups that have been established to address needs which exist in northern West Virginia, focusing on economic and community development,” he said yesterday. “I have worked aggressively to secure funds to enable these groups to carry out their worthy missions. And by every measure I know, they have been highly effective in achieving the purposes for which they were created.”

House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert said Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi should ask Mr. Mollohan to step aside at least temporarily while the investigation continues.

“The speaker should join me in directing the ethics committee to get to work and not cast aspersions on the independent and distinguished ranking member,” said Mrs. Pelosi, who has been a vocal critic of the ethical lapses she sees among Republicans.

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington also called for Mr. Mollohan to step aside from the ethics panel, formally known as the Standards of Official Conduct Committee.

“Since the conduct of all members sitting on the ethics committee needs to be above reproach, it would be inappropriate for him to retain his position during the course of the investigation,” the group said. “If Representative Mollohan does not voluntarily step aside, we ask Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi to remove him and appoint a new member immediately.”

The committee has been stalled since last year, with Democrats refusing to convene because, they say, of objections over how Republicans have operated the panel.

“We were wondering why the ethics committee was being held up for more than a year. Now we may know the reason,” said Ron Bonjean, spokesman for Mr. Hastert.

Mr. Mollohan, who faces a significant challenge in November’s election, said it is all politics.

“Obviously, I am in the cross hairs of the national Republican party and like-minded entities,” he said. “They are angry at me, and I fully expect that from now until November, they will continue to make baseless charges against me, my record and my family.”

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