Scott Tibbs
blog post
April 27th, 2005.

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Defending DeLay

Well, the House of Representatives voted 406-20 to reverse an Ethics Committee rule change from earlier this year, a change that Democrats complained was intended to protect House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas). I think this was a mistake, from both a political and policy standpoint.

The rule change was a good idea, not because it "blocked" an investigation into DeLay but because it reduced the potential for partisan witch hunts in the House. Previously, if the Ethics Committee’s five Democrats and five Republicans deadlocked, it would automatically trigger an investigation.

Let's be realistic here. If there is ample evidence of misconduct by a member of either party, there shouldn't be too much difficulty in getting a vote from a member of that person's party to start an investigation. The rule change would not matter if any of the Ethics Committee's five Republicans voted to start an investigation of DeLay.

The original rule change affected all members of the House equally, from DeLay and Christopher Shays to Barney Frank and Nancy Pelosi:

An aide to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi didn't report a 2004 trip to South Korea - total cost $9,087 - until she was queried by a (Washington) Post reporter. Two Republican House members charge that Pelosi may have violated House rules on a 2001 trip to Puerto Rico. A congresswoman who went on the trip reported that the cost was paid by a lobbyist. Now she says that was incorrect, and Pelosi's aides say the trip was funded by a not-for-profit organization, not a lobbyist.

This was also a mistake politically. Republicans failed to aggressively defend the rule change, making it look like they were sweeping DeLay's alleged misconduct under the rug. (And it should be noted that all we have right now is alleged misconduct by Delay.) They should have pushed the fairness angle much harder and made it clear to the American people that they are against using taxpayer dollars for partisan fishing expeditions.

If Republicans think Democrats will be satisfied with bringing down DeLay, they should think twice. When Democrats were targeting Trent Lott at the end of 2002, I wrote "giving in to the shameless race baiting practiced by the CBC, PFAW, and national Democrats only emboldens them and encourages similar behavior in the future." DeLay is only the means to an end, the latest attempt by Democrats to find a political villain.

Republicans could have also exposed the Democrats hypocrisy on this issue. Who can forget the Democrats' complaining about the alleged "persecution" of disgraced ex-President Clinton? Democrats did a masterful job of playing Clinton as a "victim" despite mountains of evidence against him.

I hope that going back to the old rules does not produce a flurry of investigations and counter-investigations that will do nothing but coarsen the political atmosphere in Washington, DC. Sadly, I have a feeling that my hope has no basis.