Inaction is Intolerable; Hastert Must Restore Order

Common Cause is calling on House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) to restore order in the House, where allegations regarding the conduct of the majority leader and others, combined with a gutted ethics process, have created a dark cloud over the chamber.

“Mr. Speaker, we remind you that you have significant responsibility to protect the integrity of all House members, as well as uphold the integrity of the House as an institution,” Common Cause President Chellie Pingree wrote in a letter hand-delivered to Hastert’s office Thursday. “By allowing the House to function with no ethics oversight, by fueling rumor and speculation with your silence and inaction, you are doing neither.”

The letter notes that Speaker Hastert appears to have taken extraordinary steps in recent months to protect his embattled majority leader, Rep. Tom DeLay (R-TX), such as forcing rule changes on a party line vote that gutted the ethics process, firing the ethics chairman for leading investigations critical of DeLay and replacing two other ethics members with party loyalists who have given money to DeLay’s legal defense fund, yet may have to sit in judgment of him.

“Rep. DeLay and others may or may not be guilty of one or more of the allegations that have been raised,” the letter said. “We will not know until ethics standards and a credible review process are restored in the House.

Common Cause and its nearly 300,000 members and supporters are asking Speaker Hastert to allow the House an up or down vote on the on a measure that would roll back the changes to ethics rules forced on Members at the start of the new Congress.

“This is the first step. Once that is done, the House must, in an open and bipartisan process, review and overhaul the now discredited way of enforcing ethics standards in the House,” Pingree wrote.