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March 08, 2007

CREW Files Ethics Complaint Against Hastings

Citizens For Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) has filed an ethics complaint against Doc Hastings for his interference with former U.S. attorney John McKay's office over the 2004 gubernatorial election. From the complaint:

Mr. Cassidy’s call to Mr. McKay -- at Rep. Hastings’ behest -- violates chapter 7 of the House ethics manual, which prohibits members from contacting executive or agency officials regarding the merits of matters under their formal consideration. House rules also state that if a member wants to affect the outcome of a matter in litigation, the member can file a brief with the court, make a floor statement, or insert a statement into the Congressional Record. Directly calling officials to influence an on-going enforcement matter is not an option.

Moreover, the rules state that a member may not claim he or she was merely requesting “background information” or a “status report” because the House has recognized that such requests “may in effect be an indirect or subtle effort to influence the substantive outcome of the proceedings.”

The conduct of Rep. Hastings and Mr. Cassidy may also violate the requirement that members conduct themselves in a manner that “reflects creditably on the House.” In a precedent cited by the House ethics committee when it admonished former Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX), the House has held that members are prohibited from asking an executive branch employee to engage in an activity having an impermissible political purpose.

CREW’s complaint alleges that Mr. Cassidy contacted Mr. McKay to discuss an ongoing investigative matter for the impermissible political purpose of impacting the Washington gubernatorial election.

Hastings has some 'splainin' to do. It's bad enough that a member of the House Ethics Committee would engage in such activity, but quite beyond the pale for the committee's chair to be named as the offender. "Accountability" is not a word to be thrown around lightly, especially for the head of the committee charged with guaranteeing that accountability. Hastings, famously, wasted valuable time giving Tom Delay a free pass for playing footsie with Jack Abramoff. The fact that he is still the ranking member of the ethics committee is an abomination. If Democrats William Jefferson and Alcee Hastings (no relation) deserve the contempt of their colleagues -- and they do -- then Doc Hastings, in a position to know better, is at least as contemptible and should be thrown off the committee altogether. He will most certainly have to recuse himself from any procedings in an investigation of Heather Wilson and her part in the firing of U.S. attorney David Iglesias. Majority Leader Steny Hoyer needs to check himself from merely paying lip service to the issue of ethics. Now that Democrats have gained the majority, it's imperative that both investigations go forward.

Hastings shouldn't delude himself into thinking that the latest round of lies told by Alberto Gonzales and Karl Rove will protect him from scrutiny. The U.S. attorney firings have nothing to do with "serving at the pleasure of the president" and everything to do with retaliation for not being right-wing enough. Add to that George Bush's penchant for rewarding unqualified cronies (heckuva job, Brownie, anyone?) with high-level positions that, in reality, require more expertise than simply knowing how to host a $500,000 fundraising dinner, and you can see why the Republicans inserted a provision into Patriot Act II giving the administration the authority to replace the U.S. attorneys without having to obtain Senate confirmation first. Ya know, like the way we used to do it. But just today, the administration backed down and said it won't block legislation aimed at putting Senate confirmation of all U.S.attorneys back into law. I'm really starting to enjoy the newly elected Democratic majority. They're not playing softball with Bush anymore. Now, let's see them do the same with their "friends" across the aisle. Bush says he won't oppose, but getting Senate Republicans on board is the next necessary step.

Posted by shoephone on March 8, 2007 at 03:00 PM in National and International Politics | Permalink


Hastings is the fox guarding the henhouse, isn't he? I will be very disturbed if no action - or "referral" is made to the Ethics Committee/

Posted by: Anne | Mar 8, 2007 7:35:08 PM

Forgot to add that I look forward to the day when good people in public service are encouraged to stay - which will attract more good people - instead of being kicked to the curb and their names being trashed to satisfy someone else's not-so-noble agenda.

Posted by: Anne | Mar 8, 2007 8:36:14 PM

One of the difficulties in getting complaints heard in the House, according to TPM Muckraker, is that they have to be sponsored by a Congressman.

But there's a funny thing about the ethics committee in the House. Unlike in the Senate, a complaint does not automatically trigger a preliminary investigation. For that to happen, a member of the House has to file a referral. And, because of an ongoing ethics truce between the parties, that is exceedingly rare.


Maybe some pressure needs to be applied?

Posted by: Cujo359 | Mar 8, 2007 11:49:22 PM

Cujo, that's true. There has been a stalemate and it's due to the Dems not wanting to be the recipients of ethics investigations themselves. Wm. Jefferson has problems, and even Silvestre Reyes may have some ethics issues. But it's just not acceptable for a situation such as the one w/ Hastings to go unanswered.

Hoyer has said he wants to see an investigation, but as majority leader, I'm not sure he can ask for it. Stephanie Tubbs Jones, the new chair of the committee, should be contacted by her constituents -- and why not by the rest of us as well?

You can contact Congresswoman Tubbs Jones at the following locations:

District Office

3645 Warrensville Center Road, Suite 204
Shaker Heights, OH 44122
Telephone: (216) 522-4900
Facsimile: (216) 522-4908

Washington Office

1009 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515
Telephone: (202) 225-7032
Facsimile: (202) 225-1339

But any member can ask for the investigation. Cujo, I can't remember which district you're in -- is it Baird's? Contact him.

In my case, contacting Jim McD might be pointless; considering his ongoing legal battle with Boehner he's not going to want to get involved in any other ethics issues. I think either Inlsee or Baird would be a good choice for making the referral.

Now is not the time for us to pull back, or expect that our representatives will just go ahead and do it (even though you'd think they would). The public is on their side, even some of the Repubs are on their side, and with the media storm over this I'd say the wind is at their backs. Let's keep at them until Hastings AND Wilson have to face accountablility. Hastings is the worst example of abuse of power. What could be more hypocritical and obnoxious than for the chair of the Ethics Committee to have engaged in this kind of behavior?

The other thing we need to do is get our friends in the 4th district to start drafting a candidate to oppose him in 2008. Tomorrow wouldn't be too soon.

Posted by: shoephone | Mar 9, 2007 12:29:57 AM

My Rep is Adam Smith, not my first choice for such a crusade. Still, we don't have many good choices here. Norm Dicks is pretty tied into the defense business, I don't know if he could stand close scrutiny. Like they say in the briefings, even "the appearance of" conflict of interest can be enough. Normally, I'd say McDermott would be a great choice, but he _does_ have his own (largely manufactured, I think - I can't imagine Boehner being concerned about such an issue in McD's place) ethics problem at the moment.

Posted by: Cujo359 | Mar 9, 2007 11:06:21 AM

Adam Smith? Hmm. No, not a great choice for this.

Posted by: shoephone | Mar 9, 2007 11:15:49 AM

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