Thursday, June 23, 2005



The House Ethics Committee is the one (and only) House committee run in a bipartisan manner. There are an equal number or Republicans and Democrats, although the majority party gets to name the chairman. Last year, in light of the most outrageous and blatant ethics violations by GOP House Majority Leader, Tom DeLay-- violations that should have landed him in prison-- even the Republicans on the committee backed some VERY MILD admonitions against DeLay. Predictably, DeLay went berserk and purged the committee, ridding it of the fair-minded chairman, Joel Hefley, and putting a dependably corrupt crook and strong ally, "Doc" Hastings in his place. Hastings immediately provoked a series of confrontations with Democrats on the committee by trying to tamper with the structure of the committee's work in a way to specifically protect DeLay. The committee deadlocked and ceased to function-- and crooked politicians like DeLay and Randy "Duke" Cunningham continue to run amuck.

Hastings is a right-wing hack from rural central Washington State (Yakima area). Howard Dean has suggested, rather mildly, that Hastings allow the investigation of DeLay to proceed from which he should recuse himself due to his close lobbying ties to The Hammer (the very root of why DeLay is being charged with criminal activities in Texas and why the House needs to expel him). Although Hastings somehow forgot to disclose it, newly-released documents show he had a lucrative financial relationship with lobbyists at a Seattle law firm that was part of the DeLay/Abramoff scam empire for financing DeLay's gangster empire. (And, predictably, the firm's star lobbyist, DeLay's consiglieri Jack Abramoff, has been another Republicrook arranger of lavish overseas trips for DeLay and pals.) Local Washington State newspapers are starting to scratch their editorial heads about Doc's apparent sleazy behavior. His hometown paper in Pasco, the Tri-City Herald, for example, went into details of Hastings' ties to Preston Gates & Ellis, the Seattle law firm linked to some of DeLay's shenanigans, and to one of its big lobbying clients in the 1990s, the government of the Northern Mariana Islands, an American colony. The law firm got Hastings to support efforts to prevent the federal minimum wage from being imposed on the Marianas' sweat-shop clothing factories. The headline on the article was "Hastings' Link to Islands Sullies Ethics Post." Taking advantage of and victimizing (like in bilking them for millions of dollars) American Indians as well as colonial natives appears to be a Abramoff/DeLay specialty. To have the chairman of the Ethics Committee involved in this fits right in with the Bush governing principles of having foxes watching the hen houses.

And now that Hastings is feeling the heat, he's ready to jump ship and run for cover. Painting himself-- as they always do-- as a "victim," Hastings is "threatening" to resign as committee chairman. One anonymous Republican committee staffer told the Associated Press that "Doc has had just about enough of this. He'd like to find a face-saving way out." I'm sure he would.

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At 7:04 AM, Blogger keninny said...

"To have the chairman of the Ethics Committee involved in this fits right in with the Bush governing principles of having foxes watching the hen houses."

I don't think there's much question that, by the end of the last Democratic reign over Congress, there was enough abuse of that authority to justify having the bums thrown out. But that was nothing compared with what we've gotten under the successive waves of GOP leadership. Of course it was The Hammer who made clear from the start that things were going to be run differently, starting with turning the entire Washington lobbying establishment (essentially our permanent government) into an adjunct of the far-right-controlled Republican Party.

By coincidence, on today's "New York Times" Op-Ed page Jack Valenti recalls the years when President Lyndon Johnson put him in charge of White House relations with the then-minority congressional Republican leadership--Charlie Halleck and Jerry Ford in the House, Everett Dirksen in the Senate. He describes in particular what he says is a typical meeting that would result when Senator Dirksen asked "to see the boss today," a meeting that was set on the spot for that evening in the White House living quarters. Valenti makes it clear that both men were unapologetically pursuing their respective political agendas, but in an atmosphere that's simply unrecognizable now. He concludes:

"Their relationship was built on something that is sorely missing today: trust. Both men knew that plenty of quarrels would be played out on the Senate floor and on the campaign trail. But they also knew that once a commitment had been made, it would be kept. If they disagreed, they would keep talking. Every once in a while, L.B.J. would even test out a possible appointee on Dirksen.

"They were like two old medieval warriors who had fought a hundred battles against each other. But when night fell, they would sit around a campfire, on neutral ground, and talk.

"L.B.J. understood that the role of the opposition was to oppose. Dirksen (and Ford and Halleck) knew that opposing didn't mean you couldn't give a little here and there. Neither surrendered core beliefs. But they both knew that in politics, nothing lasts for long. Mandates fade. Power passes. And majority, as sure as the seasons change, eventually becomes minority."

Of course this last bit of folk wisdom is precisely what The Hammer has set out to change: to make of the extreme-rightly-lurched GOP the permanent majority party. (Confidential to Tom D.: Attempts to lasso history on a long-term basis tend not to work out. The Nazis expected their Third Reich to last 1000 years. It didn't quite work out that way. Of course you could argue that in their dozen years they managed to cause 1000 year's worth of mayhem.) What else, for example, is a shameful piece of demagoguery like Karl Rove's recent speech attempting with unprecedented shamelessness to exploit 9/11 about?

So here we are in moral thrall to a bunch of holy-rolling low-lifes who, if there's any justice in the universe, will all proceed directly from their thundering holier-than-us pulpits to the slammer.

At 8:55 AM, Blogger DownWithTyranny said...


Required Report on Trip by House Ethics Chairman Is Missing

By Mike Allen
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, June 25, 2005; A04

The chairman of the House ethics committee apparently did not properly file a required report about a $3,170 trip to Canada last year. His staff said it must have been lost in the mail.

Perhaps the report, due nine months ago, will turn up. But this is a potentially embarrassing juncture for the chairman, Rep. Doc Hastings (R-Wash.), to suffer a paperwork blunder.

Intense scrutiny of the travel of House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) has impelled lawmakers from both parties to file or amend reports on more than 200 trips, some from years ago. The Hastings committee, currently stalled by a partisan standoff, eventually will have to decide whether any of that tardiness should be punished.

The errant report came to light when PoliticalMoneyLine, a Web site specializing in money and politics, compared the trips summarized on lawmakers' annual financial disclosures -- released earlier this month -- with those on the more detailed disclosure forms that are supposed to be filed within 30 days of a trip.

Hastings listed a trip from July 30 to Aug. 1, 2004, to Stuart Island, B.C., that was paid for by Washington Group International, an Idaho-based engineering and construction company that provides nuclear-cleanup services.

PoliticalMoneyLine did not find a matching travel report that would have spelled out the details of the trip.

When a reporter asked Hastings's office about the discrepancy yesterday, an aide to the lawmaker went to the reading room where the disclosure forms are filed and did not find it.

His office supplied its file copy of the form, which showed that he was accompanied by his wife, Claire Hastings; that the transportation was $675 for each of them; and that their expenses for meals and lodging totaled $1,820. Hastings, longtime chairman of the House's Nuclear Cleanup Caucus, went on the trip to participate in an energy symposium, the form said.

Ed Cassidy, Hastings's chief of staff, said that the form -- dated Aug. 12, 2004 -- was probably mailed from the lawmaker's district office because he would have been home for the summer, and that it must have been lost in transit.

"Our copies were in our files, and we never gave it another thought," Cassidy said.

Hastings will refile the document Monday, Cassidy said.

Democratic aides said it is unusual to mail such a form because, typically, an aide takes it to the House clerk's office and gets a copy with a time stamp to show when it was filed.

Hastings was named chairman of the ethics committee in February, replacing Rep. Joel Hefley (R-Colo.), who fell out of favor with GOP leaders.

To avert an ethics docket stuffed with hundreds of cases, Republican leaders have contemplated declaring what amounts to an amnesty for past paperwork errors, then restating the rules and enforcing them rigorously. Substantive violations, such as accepting a trip from a registered lobbyist, would not be excused, according to aides.

Rep. Alan B. Mollohan (W.Va.), the ethics committee's ranking Democrat, said in a letter delivered to House offices on Wednesday that the committee is not functioning because Hastings "has been insisting on implementing an entirely unprecedented proposal on Committee staffing" that disregards rules calling for a nonpartisan staff. Hastings wants to make Cassidy, his 10-year chief of staff, co-director of the committee staff.

Rep. Jack Kingston (Ga.), vice chairman of the House Republican Conference, replied yesterday with a letter to GOP House members saying that he hopes that the Democratic leadership "quits obstructing this process."


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