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Tag Archive: Senate Ethics Committee

Domenici “Admonished” By Ethics Committee

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I tried to interfere with a U.S. Attorney's investigation, failed, got the Attorney fired, and all I got was this lousy letter of "qualified admonition."

The Senate Ethics Committee, yesterday, admonished Sen. Pete Domenici for creating an "appearance of impropriety" when he telephoned David Iglesias, the U.S. Attorney for New Mexico, prior to the 2006 election to ask when he was going to bring indictments against Democrats for voter fraud. After not receiving the answer he wanted, Sen. Domenici pushed the White House to fire Iglesias, as they did along with other Attorneys.

This is said qualified letter of admonition. While an admonition seems like pretty weak tea for what Domenici did, it's at least good to know that they actually do police themselves in the Senate, as opposed to the House. 

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Let the Parties Begin

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The Hill reports on pressure directed at Speaker Nancy Pelosi to reconcile House ethics rules on lobbyist-sponsored convention parties with the more strict Senate rules, which the Senate reinforced on Monday. A grouping of six watchdogs (Campaign Legal Center, Common Cause, Democracy 21, League of Women Voters, Public Citizen, and U.S. PIRG) argue that the House rules punch huge holes in the ethics rules passed last fall that were meant to end the long-standing culture of corruption on Capitol Hill.

The new ethics law contains a convention party rule meant to prevent lobbyists from hosting parties to honor members in an effort to curry favor with them. The Senate Ethics Committee makes it clear that lobbyists or the organizations that they work for can't sponsor events feting a group composed solely of members of Congress. In contrast, the House Ethics Committee's guidelines said the new rules do allow lobbyists to sponsor parties honoring more than one member as long as those members are not mentioned by name.

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S.1 In Action: Senate Ethics Committee Reports

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I've spent a lot of time on this blog deriding the Senate Ethics Committee - and the frivolous complaints leveled by Sen. John Ensign against the current ethics process - for failing to investigate Senators who have allegedly violated the trust of their office (or the law, in the case of Sen. Ted Stevens). Thanks to the recently passed ethics bill, S.1, we finally get some transparency in the Ethics Committee and some statistical information about the committee's activities. The Committee is now required to issue an annual report of activity. Here are some highlights:

Number of alleged violations received in 2007 (from any source): 95 (not including the 16 carried over from 2006)

Number of alleged violations dismissed in 2007 (including 7 cases carried over from 2006): 86 (71 for lack of jurisdiction; 15 for failure to provide sufficient facts)

Number of alleged violations which resulted in a preliminary hearing: 16 (includes 9 matters carried over from 2006 and 5 matters that have carried into 2008)

Number of alleged violations that resulted in adjudicatory review: 0

Number of alleged violations dismissed for lack of substantial merit: 11 (includes 7 matters carried over from 2006)

Number of matters resulting in disciplinary action: 0

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Ethics v. Prudery

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Over the past week or two I’ve learned two things: do not tap your foot in the bathroom and that prudery is more prevalent on Capitol Hill than a true ethical fiber. Apparently it is more worrying that a Senator may be a deeply closeted gay man than it is that another Senator is deeply tied into a massive FBI-led corruption investigation or that a senior congressman is being investigated for perhaps the shadiest earmark ever. I read this article by Norm Ornstein today and couldn’t agree more with what he has to say. With so many corruption scandals, not just tawdry sex scandals, “Who believes that the ethics committee will act proactively to investigate allegedly scandalous behavior before stories garner headlines or result in announcements by prosecutors that Senators are targets or subjects of investigations?”

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Domenici In Trouble; What About Wilson?

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The Washington Post reports that the Senate ethics committee is investigating Sen. Pete Domenici's (R-NM) role in the alleged pressuring and subsequent firing of Attorney David Iglesias. Domenici announced that he has hired K. Lee Blalack, the former defense attorney for Randy "Duke" Cunningham, to represent him. The revelations in the committee hearings on Tuesday clearly have pushed this story further as it appears that, despite constantly changing excuses, two Members of Congress put unprecedented pressure on a U.S. Attorney to bring down indictments to help the re-election campaign of Rep. Heather Wilson (R-NM).

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