Jun 14, 2004

Ethics Lesson for DeLay

Houston Chronicle:

In a new twist to a bitter Texas political feud, Rep. Chris Bell, a Houston Democrat, is finalizing a House ethics complaint against Republican Majority Leader Tom DeLay of Sugar Land.

Bell, a first-term congressman who lost his House seat in a redistricting battle engineered by DeLay, plans to file documents Tuesday seeking an investigation by the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, said spokesman Eric Burns.

Officials who have seen a draft of the complaint say it focuses on DeLay’s relationship with Westar Energy Inc. and the Texans for a Republican Majority political action committee. Also included, they said, is DeLay’s effort to get federal law enforcement officials to track Texas lawmakers who fled last year to Ardmore, Okla.

Now check out his office’s response, which I have to say borders on the poetic:

“These are warmed-over and factually deficient allegations from a bitter partisan seeking liberal martyrdom on his way out of office,” Grella said Sunday. “This election-year kamikaze mission is doomed to fail, as have all previous attempts of this cynical and sad sort that make a mockery of the process.”

Ok, back to reality:

“I think this filing will really push the ethics committee to take a hard look at this,” said Sloan, a federal prosecutor who worked with Bell in drafting the complaint. “When no one has been willing to do this for seven years, it is not an easy thing to suddenly go and file a complaint against DeLay, who is known to be one of the most vindictive people in government.”

[...]

Antagonism between Bell and DeLay began shortly after Bell came to office in 2003, when DeLay made it clear he planned to push a redrawing of congressional district lines that would eliminate Bell’s Houston district.

[...]

 

Norman Ornstein, a political scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, said Bell’s filing against DeLay will be a test of the House ethics system.

“It’s not like the Republicans are suddenly going to say, `Oh, we have this bad guy in our midst,’” Ornstein said. “What it will do is provide yet another story about DeLay, and it puts him right back into the controversy that he has courted for so long.”

Under rules of the House committee, members have between five and 14 days to determine whether a complaint meets the committee standards. Members can ask for successive 45-day periods to consider the matter.

“The odds of the committee doing anything in the short-term are very slim,” Ornstein said. “What is also true is that the last thing House Republicans want to do is rush to judgment against Tom DeLay.”


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