Ethics Coalition: Texas Indictments Make DeLay Ethics Investigation More Urgent

Ethics Coalition: Texas Indictments Make DeLay Ethics Investigation More Urgent

The Congressional Ethics Coalition, an ideologically diverse coalition of eight leading government reform organizations, released the following statement regarding the indictment of several top aides to House Majority Leader Tom DeLay. The Coalition is working for meaningful reform of congressional ethics oversight rules.

The coalition members are Common Cause, the Campaign Legal Center, the Center for Responsive Politics, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Government, Democracy 21, Judicial Watch, Public Campaign and Public Citizen.

The indictment of three top aides to House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX) makes it even more urgent for the House Ethics Committee to investigate whether Mr. DeLay played a role in allegedly illegal fundraising by committees he directly controlled.

The Ethics Committee has a clear responsibility to investigate whether Mr. DeLay violated ethics rules in the course of his leadership of TRMPAC and ARMPAC, both of which are the subject of the criminal indictments announced yesterday in Texas.

The aides charged included the director of Texans for a Republican Majority and two key fundraisers for the committee, which Mr. DeLay helped create and on whose advisory board he served. The executive director of Mr. DeLays own PAC, Americans for a Republican Majority, was also charged.

If these charges do not persuade the Ethics Committee that there is sufficient evidence to at least open an investigation into the pending DeLay matter, it is almost impossible to imagine what would.

If the Ethics Committee chooses to ignore the indictment of federal officials serving at the pleasure of Mr. DeLay and directly reporting to

him, then it is clear that the Committee has abdicated its constitutional responsibility to enforce ethical standards in the House.

Earlier this week, Ethics Committee Chairman Joel Hefley (R-CO) and ranking member Rep. Alan Mollohan (D-WV) — apparently unable to agree on how to address allegations of improper fundraising by Mr. DeLay — said that they would ask the full committee to decide whether to open an investigation. Pushing that decision off to the 10-member committee sets up the likelihood the members will deadlock on a 5-to-5 vote, which would result in the matter being entirely dropped.

Once again, we strongly urge the House Ethics Committee to open an inquiry into the allegations in the complaint brought by Rep. Chris Bell (D-TX) against Mr. DeLay. Anything else would be irresponsible conduct by the Committee and would require the full House to take action to override the Committee.