- Rep. William Jefferson (D-LA), under fire for allegedly soliciting bribes in a telecommunications deal, defiantly declared that he will not resign, according to the New Orleans Times-Picayune. Jefferson, who has been named in two plea deals, made this statement, "No one wants to be indicted. I certainly do not and I certainly do not want anyone -- a family member or a close associate -- to be indicted. But I am prepared to answer these charges formally when and if the time comes. . . . I would take full responsibility for any crime that I committed, if that were the case. But I will not plead guilty to something I did not do, no matter how things are made to look and no matter the risk."
- The House Ethics Committee has announced an interim plan to review private travel for members and staff. The plan would involve voluntary cooperation by the persons or groups paying for the travel. These persons could, if they wanted, receive certification for the trip by providing the names of all persons on the trip, including relatives of the lawmaker or staffer; a detailed description of the trip, including an itinerary and agenda; a description of all travel expenses and the source of all expenses; a representation that none of the expenses were covered by a registered lobbyist, lobbying firm, or foreign agent. The Ethics Committee has made no declaration as to whether these documents would be available for public consumption.
- The Wall Street Journal reports that anonymous earmarks continue to be written despite the enormous amount of negative attention they have received in the past six months.
It's against the law to solicit a trip or a gift of any value if you are a member of Congress. Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) is asking the Department of Justice to open an investigation into Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) to determine whether the congressman "violated federal law by soliciting a trip to Germany and Liechtenstein from the International Management and Development Institute (IMDI)."Continue reading
March saw the second-lowest amount of money spent of private travel since 2000 with members taking 29 trips paid for by private groups totaling $25,147. Follow the link to find out which members accepted private travel, what that travel was for, and how much it cost.Continue reading
- Jack Abramoff and Tony Rudy were involved in the 1998 gubernatorial election in Guam, according to the Guam Pacific Daily News:
In e-mails reviewed by the Wall Street Journal, Abramoff had asked Tony Rudy, Rep. Tom DeLay's deputy chief of staff, to see if he could garner any assistance in helping the 1998 gubernatorial candidacy of former Gov. Joseph Ada and then Sen. Felix Camacho, now the governor of Guam, who ran against incumbent Gov. Carl Gutierrez at the time.
The e-mail from Abramoff, sent Oct. 26, 1998, stated, “We want to know if there is any way to get Tom to call for an investigation of the misuse of federal funds on Guam by this governor,” referring to Gutierrez.
Abramoff then said he would draft a statement for DeLay and suggested that if Rudy could "issue a press release and letter requesting an Inspector General to investigate these matters, it should have a major impact on the election next week."
Within a few hours, the report states, Rudy and DeLay aide Tom Scanlon released a statement from DeLay and a letter to the Department of the Interior's inspector general, calling for a federal investigation of Gutierrez.
- Former Pennsylvania congressman and current lobbyist Robert Walker “dismissed lobbying reforms approved by the Senate as minimal and said they would ‘have little or no impact on the way Washington actually operates,’” according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. Walker states that three steps need to be taken to crack down on lobbying abuses, “Credentialing lobbyists, abolishing so-called leadership political-action committees, and barring contributions by lobbyists to individual campaigns.”
- The Toledo Blade reports that Ohio Senate candidate Rep. Sherrod Brown (D), “his family, and his staff accepted 57 privately funded trips, valued at nearly $180,000, in more than a decade in the House - including flights to Finland, Hong Kong, Hawaii, Israel, Moscow, and Taiwan.” Brown opposes a proposed travel ban pending as a part of lobbying and ethics reform.
- The San Francisco Chronicle reports on Democratic Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s fundraising: “If money is power in politics, then Nancy Pelosi wields a lot of it.” Pelosi’s ability to raise money has also brought investigations, predominantly by a conservative named Ken Boehm. Although he tried, Boehm “failed to uncover anything that looked like a legal violation or a bona fide scandal, and he eventually got distracted and moved on to researching somebody else.”
- It seems to me that we get one of these “ethics committee sidelined” stories per week. This time it’s from Roll Call, “The Committee on Standards of Official Conduct met for several hours on Thursday but in the end only reached one public decision — to continue an investigation of a leftover complaint from the 108th Congress against Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Wash.) for his leaking of an illegally intercepted phone call between Republican leaders in 1996.”
- The Washington Post reports that Maryland is having just as hard a time as Congress in regulating lobbying.
A group of Senators are aiming to make lawmakers pay their fair share when they fly in corporate jets, according to the New York Times. Current rules stipulate that lawmakers must reimburse the cost for private jet travel at the commercial first class rate, which is significantly lower than the actual rate for private jet travel. Senators Russ Feingold (D-WI), Rick Santorum (R-PA), and Barack Obama (D-IL) are proposing legislation that would force lawmakers to pay the actual rater for the private jet travel. Obama sees private jet travel “as a way to circumvent the limits on so-called soft money campaign contributions.”Continue reading
A number of religious groups and nonprofits are fighting a proposed ban on members of Congress accepting privately financed travel, arguing that their “activities are far different from the golfing and exotic foreign junkets that have been the centerpiece of recent lobbying scandals.” According to The Hill newspaper, the groups leading the fight are the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the American Jewish Committee (AJC), the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, and the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities. Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD) has raised the possibility of modifying the Democratic proposals after “discussions on things like the Faith and Politics trip to Selma and Montgomery or the Aspen Institute or other like institutions.”Continue reading