Morning Business: Party Pooper

Posted July 23, 2008 at 6:37pm

House Democrats got a fresh reminder Wednesday that lavish, corporate-sponsored parties at their convention in Denver next month will be more than just a good time. They could also be an ethical minefield.

[IMGCAP(1)]Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) cautioned her colleagues at their weekly caucus meeting to be careful which invites they accept, according to those in attendance. “She cautioned Members to make sure whatever events they’re participating in comply with the new ethics rules,” said Kristofer Eisenla, spokesman for DeGette.

House ethics rules state that lawmakers may attend convention parties bankrolled by lobbying groups, as long as that event does not honor them specifically. Eisenla said DeGette has seen invites to at least two events that listed her as a guest.

One Is Enough. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) will be the lead witness in a Judiciary Committee hearing this morning with the intriguing title “Crimes Associated with Polygamy: The Need for a Coordinated State and Federal Response.”

The hearing, which Reid requested, will focus on the criminal acts of polygamist sects. A Mormon, Reid is making a rare committee appearance and it comes one day after he introduced legislation targeting the illegal activity of polygamist sects, including underage marriages, spousal and child abuse, welfare fraud and tax evasion. The bill also calls for $2 million in grant money for polygamy victims to be placed in witness protection programs, and receive housing, education and medical treatment.

The issue received heightened attention earlier this year after a West Texas sect was raided, revealing a community filled with plural marriages and led to charges of sexual abuse.

Pioneer Painted. The House Education and Labor Committee will unveil a portrait this morning of a former chairwoman who while at the helm of the committee helped steer the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938.

Former Rep. Mary Norton (D-N.J.), who served 13 terms from 1925 to 1950, led the committee from 1937 to 1946 and pushed for fair labor laws and women’s rights. She was the first Democratic woman elected to the House, and during her tenure pushed to raise the minimum wage from 40 cents to 75 cents per hour.

The portrait unveiling comes on the same day that the federal minimum wage increases from $5.85 to $6.55.

Norton, who died in 1959, served with a handful of female legislators dubbed the “Petticoat Front.”