A House Rules Committee report charging GOP Members with corruption has been removed from Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) leadership Web site, leading Republicans last week to label the move as an admission by Democrats that the report was used improperly to raise campaign cash.
The report, prepared by Democratic Rules Committee staffers for ranking member Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.), was compiled, say Republicans, to raise money and score political points on the campaign trail — both for the Congresswoman and candidates supported by Democratic campaign committees.
The office of Rules Chairman David Dreier (R-Calif.) declined to comment. But Republicans familiar with the matter — beyond disputing the report’s findings and its legitimacy as an official government inquiry — said Slaughter’s actions violated federal law and leave her open to a House ethics investigation.
“Everyone on Capitol Hill except Louise Slaughter seems to realize that you can’t run campaigns out of your federal office,” one House Republican aide said. “The report is bogus. U.S. taxpayers paid for this campaign fundraising stunt for Democrats, and it appears they know it, because they took it down.”
Slaughter spokesman Eric Burns dismissed the Republicans’ complaints as an attempt to obscure their Congressional record. He said Slaughter wants the report, titled “America For Sale: The Cost of Republican Corruption,” to remain publicly available, and is considering posting it directly on her official Web site, though no timetable was given for doing so.
Until now, the 118-page report was linked to from Slaughter’s campaign Web site, with the actual contents stored at www.housedemocrats.gov, an Internet site controlled by California’s Pelosi.
“She did this report because it was germane to the business of the committee,” Burns said. “What happens to those reports once they are released publicly: Any organization or Web site can blast it out and do with it what they want. [Republicans] have no argument.”
Pelosi spokeswoman Jennifer Crider said flatly that the only reason the report is no longer available at the House Democrats’ Web site is because the leadership staff responsible for deciding what is linked chose to replace it with a report card focusing on the Republicans’ homeland security and port security record.
National Republican Congressional Committee spokesman Ed Patru called Crider’s explanation “spin.”
“If they really believe its OK for taxpayers to foot the bill for their fundraising pitches and political talking points, then Louise Slaughter and the rest of the leadership should repost this overtly political document to their Web sites,” he said.
The report included a compilation of bills passed by the GOP majority and alleged that Republicans were guilty of corruption at least in part because they did the bidding of the industries that benefited from their votes.
Republicans say that, their qualms with the mendacity of the report aside, they would have less of an issue with it had it been researched and written by Slaughter’s campaign staff. They said she used her position on the committee to direct staff to gin up a report that could then be used as a political tool to raise money for Democratic campaigns.
They said this point is proved by the fundraising links that are immediately adjacent to the description of the report — complete with an Internet link to it — on the various campaign-oriented Web pages that it was posted on. But Burns said most campaign Web sites have such fundraising links, emphasizing that it is a function of the Internet software.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which the NRCC says also used this report to raise money, denied doing so.
“At one point we sent out an e-mail that included a link to a news report about the Slaughter report, but we never solicited for money or even put it on our Web site,” said a DCCC aide.
Politically, the Republicans’ criticism should have no effect on Slaughter. She has been a popular officeholder in the Rochester area for 32 years, including the previous 20 in Congress.
Her district gave Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) a 62 percent to 36 percent edge over President Bush in 2004.
Coincidentally, PoliticsNY.net, a political Web site in western New York, quoted unnamed sources Friday saying that Erie County Executive Joel Giambra (R), a former Democrat whose poll numbers have been sinking in recent months, was contemplating challenging Slaughter in November.
Giambra’s county government spokesman did not respond to a Roll Call telephone message Friday.