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Democrats Take Ethics Fight to Rules Panel

In their latest salvo aimed at painting House Republicans as corrupt, the chamber’s Democrats have unveiled a massive report detailing the GOP’s alleged ethical lapses and plan to introduce yet another package of reform proposals Wednesday.

But Congressional Republicans are assailing the report, asserting that the document, authored by the minority staff of the Rules Committee, violated the chamber’s ethics rules prohibiting the use of House resources for campaign or political purposes.

National Republican Congressional Committee spokesman Ed Patru criticized the use of taxpayer dollars to create a document he asserts “amounts to nothing more than a political document.”

“It’s a political propaganda piece,” Patru said. “It’s short of substance and high on political rhetoric.”

The 118-page report, “America for Sale: The Cost of Republican Corruption,” criticizes GOP lawmakers for “not enforc[ing] the code of ethics that requires Members of Congress to act with honesty at all times and to put the public interest above their own.”

In addition to analysis of major policy legislation including bills focused on Medicare, energy and homeland security, the report offers a synopsis of the unfolding lobbying scandal centered on former influence peddler Jack Abramoff and his relation to various Members of Congress.

Absent from the report’s discussion, however, is the ongoing Justice Department investigation of Rep. William Jefferson (D-La.), who, in a recent plea agreement entered by one of his former aides, has been implicated in a scheme to solicit bribes.

Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.), ranking member of the Rules panel, defended the report Monday, asserting it falls within the purview of the committee.

“I think what they’re accusing me of is bringing politics into this, which is not what we’re doing at all,” she said.

Slaughter spokesman Eric Burns similarly stood behind the report’s propriety, stating: “We’re certainly within the bounds of the rules on this report.

“This report is about the destruction of the legislative process here in the House of Representatives. ... The Rules Committee is charged with protecting the integrity of the legislative process,” he added.

It remains unclear, however, whether an ethics complaint will be filed against the New York Congresswoman, as the NRCC’s Patru declined to comment on the issue. The Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, as the ethics panel is formally called, has been embroiled in a yearlong stalemate that has blocked it from taking up any investigations.

In the meantime, Democrats, led by Slaughter, are slated to unveil a new reform package Wednesday intended to address select issues raised in the report.

The New York lawmaker declined to discuss specifics of the proposal but did list a host of issues — including creating a “layover” period before legislation is sent to the Rules panel and providing Members with sufficient time to read legislation — that could be addressed.

“We want to put a stop to those kinds of things,” Slaughter said.

The Feb. 22 report enumerates similar complaints over “procedural abuses,” and the document’s authors assert that GOP leaders “have routinely twisted and broken the House rules to jam their lobbyist-written bills through the House without giving elected representatives an opportunity to debate, amend or, in some cases, even read those bills.”

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