Hulshof, Doyle to Lead Smith Investigation

Posted March 25, 2004 at 3:57pm

The House ethics committee today appointed Reps. Kenny Hulshof (R-Mo.) and Mike Doyle (D-Pa.) to head up the investigative subcommittee looking into allegations that unnamed GOP lawmakers improperly pressured Rep. Nick Smith (R-Mich.) during a Nov. 22 Medicare vote.

Reps. John Shadegg (R-Ariz.) and Bill Delahunt (D-Mass.) will fill out the four-member investigative panel, which can issue subpoenas and hear testimony from witnesses under oath. Once it finishes its probe, the subcommittee will report back to the full ethics panel with its findings, and the full committee will then be required to vote either to take further action or to dismiss the case.

Hulshof is a four-term lawmaker and holds a seat on the powerful Ways and Means Committee. After getting his law degree from the University of Missouri in1983, Hulshof served as a public defender in Cape Girardeau for three years, and then switched sides to become a local prosecutor.

In 1989, Hulshof joined the Missouri attorney general’s office as a special prosecutor, where he worked on a number of high-profile trials throughout the state, and obtained convictions in seven death-penalty cases.

Doyle is a former insurance agent and was longtime aide to a Democratic state Senator. In his fifth term, the moderate Doyle serves on the Energy and Commerce Committee.

Neither Hulshof nor Doyle would comment on their appointment or when they hope to start, and finish, their investigation.

Shadegg, along with Smith, was one of the Republican holdouts who came under heavy pressure from their leadership to support the Medicare bill. A five-term lawmaker with a law degree from the University of Arizona, Shadegg practiced law for nearly 20 years before coming to the House. He served as a special assistant to the Arizona attorney general from 1983 to 1990. A noted conservative, Shadegg has often bucked his own leadership on key issues, and he lost his seat on Ways and Means in 1997. Shadegg was later awarded a coveted seat on Energy and Commerce.

Delahunt, who first came to Capitol Hill in 1996, served as a district attorney in Norfolk County for more than 20 years. A graduate of Boston College Law School, Delahunt serves on Judiciary and International Relations.

Delahunt, like the other lawmakers, declined to comment on any specifics of the Smith case other than to say his appointment to the investigative subcommittee is “something nobody does with enthusiasm,” although he noted that it was important for the ethics committee to take up the issue because “the integrity of the House is at stake.”

In the days after the controversial Nov. 22 Medicare vote, which Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) held open for an unprecedented three hours, the retiring Smith claimed that unnamed GOP leaders offered “bribes and special deals” to rank-and-file Republicans to get their support for the bill, a top priority for President Bush and the party.

At one point, Smith told a Michigan radio station that he was offered $100,000 in campaign contributions from business interests for his son Brad Smith (R), who is seeking the seat his father is vacating.

The elder Smith, who declines to comment on the issue now, later modified his position on the whole matter, saying instead of a specific dollar amount, he was offered “significant financial support” for his son if he backed the bill.

Smith has steadfastly refused to name who made the alleged offers, and in the end he did vote against the legislation, which created a $400 billion prescription drug program under Medicare. The FBI has also interviewed Smith about his allegations, although it is unclear where that probe currently stands or whether it will be superseded by the investigation by the ethics committee, formally known as the Committee on Official Standards of Conduct.