Joint Statement of Congress ional Ethics Coalition on DeLay Complaint

Common Cause is one of eight members of a nonpartisan coalition working toward meaningful reform of the congressional ethics system. The Congressional Ethics Coalition released this statement Sept. 16 in regard to an ethics complaint pending in the House against Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX).

On Tuesday, House Ethics Committee Chairman Joel Hefley (R-CO) and/or Ranking Member Alan Mollohan (D-WVA) short-circuited the ethics process by placing the ethics complaint against Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX) on the Committee’s agenda, thereby stopping the clock that would have required an investigation into the DeLay complaint to be initiated automatically on September 20, 2004.

It therefore appears that this matter is being set up to be dropped entirely by the full Ethics committee, quite possibly by a 5 to 5 deadlock vote. The membership of the Committee is evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats.

The 1997 task force that rewrote the ethics rules never envisioned this sort of manipulation of the rules. The task force expected that placing a complaint on the agenda would be an “option of last resort.” Yet it has been clear from the beginning that there is more than sufficient grounds in this case for, at a minimum, an investigation of the matter to occur.

In the past, the House Ethics Committee has found ways to take a serious look at potential ethics violations by House leaders of both parties. This does not appear to be happening in the DeLay case.

In our view, this latest action underscores the House’s animosity in recent years toward the idea of monitoring the ethics of its members, despite its constitutional duty to do so. For nearly seven years, the House maintained a truce under which no one from either party filed an ethics complaint. Now that a complaint has been filed, it appears that the complaint is being set up for outright dismissal without any real inquiry being conducted into the merits of the charges.

There is no way that any responsible member of the House can justify burying the DeLay ethics complaint without any real inquiry into the serious ethics issues that have been repeatedly raised.

We strongly urge the House Ethics Committee to open an inquiry and conduct an investigation into the allegations in the Delay complaint. Anything less would be irresponsible conduct on the part of the Ethics Committee – and would call for the full House to take action to override the Committee.

Common Cause

Campaign Legal Center

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington

Judicial Watch

Center for Responsive Politics

Democracy 21

Public Campaign

Public Citizen