Illinois Constituents, Four Watchdog Groups Call for Outside Counsel to Investigate DeLay Scandals

House Speaker Hastert Asked to End Ethics Impasse in House

Contact: Mary Boyle, Common Cause (202) 736-5770

Rick Bielke, Public Campaign (202) 293-0222

Valerie Collins, Public Citizen (202) 588-7742

Gary Kalman, U.S. PIRG (202) 546-9707

Washington, D.C. – More than two dozen voters in House Speaker Dennis Hastert’s (R-Ill.) congressional district today joined four national public interest groups in calling upon the speaker to assert his leadership and break the impasse on ethics enforcement in the U.S. House of Representatives.

The Hastert constituents and reform group leaders delivered a letter to Hastert and held a media conference call demanding that the speaker appoint an outside counsel to investigate the allegations of corruption against Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) and resolve the staffing dispute that has shut down the House ethics committee, getting ethics enforcement on track.

“As the ethics committee remains stalled due to a stalemate over staffing issues, allegations continue to abound about ethics violations by Majority Leader Tom DeLay and other members on both sides of the aisle,” the groups said in the letter to Hastert. “Yet the committee is incapable or unwilling to address these ethics issues.”

Even if the ethics committee resolves its partisan squabbles and begins to function, the groups said, it is imperative that an outside counsel be appointed to investigate the allegations of corruption against Tom DeLay for three reasons:

DeLay’s position vests him with considerable power and influence over the way the ethics committee operates and gives him the capacity to exact retribution against other members, for which DeLay has earned the nickname of “the Hammer”;

DeLay has changed House ethics rules to suit his needs (reversing his changes only under intense public criticism), and Republican ethics committee members who recently voted to scold DeLay for unethical behavior have since been fired; and,

The three “replacement” members of the ethics committee have received funds from DeLay’s leadership PAC or made contributions to DeLay’s legal defense fund.

“Given these recent blows to the public credibility of both the ethics committee and Congress as an institution, it is essential that any investigation of Rep. DeLay be fair and impartial in both appearance and reality,” reads the letter. “Only the appointment of independent outside counsel can achieve this result.”

Said Common Cause President Chellie Pingree: “The inability of the ethics committee to even organize itself only fuels the public’s cynicism toward elected officials and our government. That’s why it’s incumbent upon Speaker Hastert to intervene, get the committee going and see that an outside counsel is appointed to investigate allegations against Tom DeLay.”

Said Public Citizen President Joan Claybrook: “The only way to have an investigation of Tom DeLay’s apparent transgressions that is free from the taint of partisan politics is for Speaker Hastert to show some leadership and appoint a special counsel. Tom DeLay holds too much power over the Republican caucus in the House for us to expect an unbiased investigation by the ethics committee. Even Rep. Doc Hastings is compromised and has indicated he may resign from the ethics committee chairmanship over this brouhaha. Until we get an independent agency to investigate the other pending ethics complaints, we desperately need a functioning ethics committee.”

Said U.S. PIRG Executive Director Gene Karpinski: “In the past several months we have seen shameful parliamentary gymnastics orchestrated by Mr. DeLay to avoid accountability, and while Mr. DeLay has now called for his ‘day in court,’ it is only after he has done all he can to handpick the jury who will decide his fate.”

Said Public Campaign Executive Director Nick Nyhart: “As a former wrestling coach, Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert ought to understand that the current House ethics committee has about as much public credibility these days as ‘Wrestlemania 21 Goes to Hollywood’ – in other words none.”

To read the letter to Speaker Hastert from his constituents and the four reform groups, go to:

To hear a new radio ad by Common Cause urging Hastert to appoint an outside counsel, go to:

To view Common Cause’s report on the need for an outside counsel, go to:{69ED4CD9-4019-425F-83A0-83E9DE2C3D8E}&notoc=1