Thursday, June 23, 2005

''House Ethics Chairman May Quit, Officials Report''

"WASHINGTON, June 22 - The chairman of the House ethics committee, Representative Doc Hastings, Republican of Washington, is warning that he may resign from the post this summer because of a stalemate of months with Democrats over whether and how to conduct investigations of Representative Tom DeLay and other lawmakers, Republican Congressional officials said. They said Mr. Hastings had told colleagues privately in recent weeks that he might step down out of frustration with what he considered intractability of Democrats on the panel and their repeated public attacks on his leadership.

The committee is deadlocked over several issues, including staffing for the committee, and has been unable to pursue investigations of Mr. DeLay, the majority leader, or anyone else. House Republican officials say the departure of Mr. Hastings and the appointment of a new chairman could mean months of additional delay before the committee is able to resume any of its investigative work. Mr. Hastings has also faced criticism in recent weeks over newly disclosed documents that show he has worked closely for years with lobbyists at a Seattle-based law firm that is under scrutiny because of its ties to Mr. DeLay. The firm's former star lobbyist arranged lavish overseas trips for Mr. DeLay, a Texas Republican.

Last week, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, Howard Dean, cited the lobbying ties in calling for Mr. Hastings to recuse himself from any investigation of the majority leader. Newspaper editorials in Mr. Hastings's home state have joined in urging him to step aside to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest. An article this week in The Tri-City Herald, the local newspaper of Mr. Hastings's hometown, Pasco, detailed his ties to the Preston Gates & Ellis, a Seattle law firm that has been linked to Mr. DeLay, and to one of its major lobbying clients in the 1990's, the government of the Northern Mariana Islands, an American commonwealth in the Pacific.

At the firm's urging, Mr. Hastings introduced testimony into the record in the House in support of the islands' efforts to prevent the federal minimum wage from being imposed on its clothing factories. The headline on the article was "Hastings' Link to Islands Sullies Ethics Post." The firm's former chief lobbyist, Jack Abramoff, is now the focus of a federal corruption investigation here."-from the story in today's New York Times. "Sully: 1. spoil: to spoil or detract from something, especially somebody's reputation, that has previously been pure and honorable, or become spoiled or tarnished (a reputation sullied by scandal). 2. make dirty: to make something dirty"-from the Encarta Dictionary.

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