Ethics Committee Unpacked

From Holden:

Two Republican members of the House Ethics Committee (including my own Congressman Lamar Smith) are recusing themselves from any investigation of Tom DeLay. This marks the third retreat for the House leadership in their efforts to give the Bugman a free pass.

Two Republican members of the House ethics committee who contributed to the legal defense fund of Representative Tom DeLay, the majority leader, recused themselves Wednesday from any potential investigation of him as the panel took the first steps that could lead to such an inquiry.

After a two-hour meeting, Representative Doc Hastings, the chairman, announced that the two representatives, Lamar Smith of Texas and Tom Cole of Oklahoma, would not take part in any action relating to Mr. DeLay. The two lawmakers each provided $5,000 last year to a fund being used to underwrite Mr. DeLay’s legal expenses as he fought accusations of misconduct in Texas and Washington.

“All three of us agree that it’s best to remove any doubt about this at the very start of the process,” Mr. Hastings, a Washington Republican, said in a statement.

The decision represented an effort by Republicans to avert calls for an outside counsel to lead the House investigation into the powerful party leader and to restore credibility to its internal ethics process.

[snip]

Mr. Hastings and two other Republicans on the panel, Melissa A. Hart of Pennsylvania and Judy Biggert of Illinois, have all received campaign contributions of varying sizes from political committees run by Mr. DeLay, but panel members of both parties have said that such ties should not be disqualifying. Outside advocacy groups have called them a conflict of interest.