The aides, who spoke on
condition of anonymity, represent a broad swath of the
caucus. The general mood among staff is high; Democrats
are pleased they won the day Wednesday, forcing Republicans
to backtrack on controversial rules changes they forced
through in the wake of DeLay’s admonishment last
Though aides expressed confidence that any Democrats
who might be targeted would be exonerated, they stopped
short of Sen. Kerry’s presidential campaign maxim,
“bring it on.”
Democrats—and others who follow ethics on Capitol
Hill—suggest several Republican House members
could face ethics charges. Among Democrats, DeLay is
joined by Reps. Bob Ney (R-OH) and Rep. Richard Pombo
(R-CA), both of whom appear entangled with lobbyist
and onetime DeLay golfing partner Jack Abramoff, who
has emerged as a thundercloud over the Republican caucus.
“There’s probably a lot of people with
Abramoff connections that could get caught up in that
web,” one Democratic aide said.
In response, Republican aides have raised
concerns about Democratic members. They note that
House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) paid a fine
to resolve concerns about her political action committees;
take issue with Rep. Jim McDermott’s (D-WA) decision
to give a copy of an eavesdropped call to newspapers
during the investigation of former GOP Speaker of the
House Newt Gingrich; snipe at Rep. Stephanie Tubbs-Jones
(D-OH), regarding travel sponsorship to Puerto Rico;
and attack Rep. Paul Kajorski (D-PA) over alleged favoritism.
The complaints against DeLay, however, appear more
serious and are greater in number. DeLay has been alleged
to have engaged in everything from campaign finance
violations, to abusing his power in redistricting Texas,
to allowing lobbyists to pay for foreign travel. He’s
also been admonished three times already by his Republican
colleagues—more than any other member in the history
of the House.
But if Republicans do decide to move against Democrats,
staffers believe they will be cleared.
“There’s a huge difference between simple
mistakes in paperwork and systematic and concerted efforts
to violate the rules of the House,” one Democratic
“It shouldn’t be a focus of technical oversight,”
another added. “The focus should stay on whether
or not influence is being bought in Congress through
lavish trips and other gifts, not members who have technical
or other type of oversight on trip filings.”
One Democratic aide scoffed at complaints against Pelosi.
“If the Republicans are going to go after every
member of Congress for a [Federal Election Commission]
violation, they should hold a mirror to their own conference,”
the aide remarked. “I would estimate that close
to a dozen Republican members—including Roy Blunt
(R-MO) and Deborah Pryce (R-OH) in the Republican leadership—have
had FEC fines.”
Some believe that any moves on Democratic members will
ultimately hurt Republicans more.
“There’s a belief that when you tarnish
the House, the majority party gets more of the blame
and more of the blowback than the minority party,”
one staffer said. “So Republicans probably are,
and should be, concerned about starting an ethics complaint.”
Several stressed that they felt ethics issues weren’t
partisan, and that concerns about DeLay’s alleged
infractions were fair—that any member who gives
the appearance of being unethical brings scorn upon
the entire Congress.
“This is a question of broader ethics and principles,
and the Republicans came in in 1994 saying that they
wanted to run the House differently and saying they
wanted to have more transparency and to make the people’s
House more responsive to the people,” a longtime
aide remarked. “Unfortunately it’s gone
just the opposite way.”
Ultimately, it is Republicans who will decide whether
to file complaints against Democratic members.
“We’ve heard the threats the Speaker’s
made, and clearly they’re trying to muddy the
waters,” a staffer said. “We’ll see
if they follow through.”
Article originally published Apr. 28, 2005.