Ethics problems for the ethics committee?

Dennis Hastert backs down on rule changes passed to protect Tom DeLay, but are Republicans on the ethics committee still too compromised to act?

Published April 27, 2005 4:39PM (EDT)

It's all well and good that House Republicans are willing to reverse the rule changes they made to protect Tom DeLay from any embarrassing investigations by the House ethics committee. The problem is, even if the ethics committee takes up an investigation of the house majority leader, it still may find itself hamstrung by the conflicts of interest afflicting -- not entirely coincidentally -- the Republicans on the committee.

As USAToday reports, all five Republicans on the ethics committee "have financial links to Tom DeLay that could raise conflict-of-interest issues should the panel investigate the GOP majority leader." Rep. Melissa Hart, who would chair any panel assigned to investigate Delay, received $10,000 from DeLay's PAC in 2000 and another $5,000 in 2002. USAToday says the PAC, Americans for a Republican Majority, also donated to the campaigns of current ethics committee members Doc Hastings, Judy Biggert and Tom Cole. The fifth Republican on the committee, Lamar Smith of Texas, has donated money to DeLay's legal defense fund, the paper reports.

Is this a problem? Hart doesn't think so. "That's just normal," she told USAToday.

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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