Wednesday, April 27, 2005

White, Whole Wheat, or Rye?

From Mike Allen in the WaPo:

House Republican leaders, acknowledging that ethics disputes are taking a heavy toll on the party’s image, decided yesterday to rescind a controversial rule change that led to the three-month shutdown of the ethics committee, according to officials who participated in the talks.

Republicans touched off a political uproar in January by changing a rule that had required the ethics committee to continue considering a complaint against a House member if there was a deadlock between the committee’s five Republicans and five Democrats. The January change reversed this, calling for automatic dismissal of an ethics complaint when a deadlock occurs.

Democrats rebelled against that and other changes — saying Republicans were trying to protect House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) from further ethics investigations — and blocked the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, as the ethics panel is officially known, from organizing for the new Congress.

Republicans on the committee say they will launch an investigation of DeLay’s handling of overseas trips and gifts as soon as the impasse over the rules is broken. The Washington Post reported last weekend that Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff charged DeLay’s airfare to London and Scotland to his American Express card in 2000.

Tom is toast.

Update: Via my new buddy The Daou Report, ABC News has this little tidbit:

Over two years, Rep. Tom DeLay had at least two dozen discussions with a lobbyist working to keep a U.S. territory’s factories free from new labor laws. The lobbyist contributed to the House leader’s campaigns and arranged travel for him.

Records show that DeLay’s staff spoke with the lobbyist, Jack Abramoff, or his team almost daily during this period.

DeLay’s office kept Abramoff, now under criminal investigation, routinely apprised of congressional efforts to block new regulations on his client, the Northern Mariana Islands.

Questions have been raised about whether Abramoff himself paid for some of DeLay’s foreign trips in violation of House rules. DeLay maintains they were properly financed by trip sponsors.

Abramoff’s firm reported it drafted legislative materials for DeLay, and Abramoff boasted to island leaders he could use his close ties to Republican leaders to block legislation from receiving a House vote.

“Getting the bill off the schedule for next week, however, should enable us to use our connections within the Leadership to ensure that … it will not come to the floor,” Abramoff wrote the islands in September 1996.

The Northern Marianas billing and correspondence records of Abramoff’s former lobbying firm, Preston Gates, were obtained by The Associated Press under an open records request approved by the island government

They provide a day-by-day account of the lobbyist’s campaign of fundraising, trip-providing and schmoozing with lawmakers in both parties aimed at, among other things, getting Congress to block Clinton administration efforts to regulate alleged “sweatshop” garment factories in the Northern Marianas. Those rules were never enacted.

For those of you who missed Watergate, this is a microcosm of what happened to President Nixon during the spring and summer of 1974…the shit started to cascade down on him until he resigned on August 9. Enjoy the ride.