Indictment launches ethics battle
Monday's indictment of Rep. William Jefferson touched off an ethics battle in the House Tuesday, with leaders from both parties moving quickly...
The Washington Post
WASHINGTON — Monday's indictment of Rep. William Jefferson touched off an ethics battle in the House Tuesday, with leaders from both parties moving quickly against the Louisiana Democrat even as they accused each other of having no real interest in tighter ethics rules.
In short order, the House Tuesday night approved a Democratic motion that would make an ethics investigation automatic upon the indictment of any House member, and then approved a Republican motion that could lead to Jefferson's expulsion.
The GOP resolution, offered by Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, referred Jefferson's case to the ethics committee, demanding that the panel report on whether expulsion is merited. The Democratic rule change, introduced by Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., would give the ethics committee 30 days after an indictment to initiate an investigation or explain why it declined to do so.
Jefferson, meanwhile, gave up his last remaining committee position, a seat on the Small Business Committee, telling Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., that the move was not an admission of guilt but a reflection of "recent developments in a legal matter."
Jefferson was indicted Monday on 16 counts of corruption, racketeering and bribery. He is accused of receiving more than $500,000 in bribes and seeking millions more in schemes to enrich himself by using his office to broker business deals in Africa. The charges came almost two years after investigators raided Jefferson's home in Washington and found $90,000 in cash stuffed in his freezer.
Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones, D-Ohio, chairwoman of the ethics committee, announced that her panel would reconvene an investigative subcommittee assembled last year to probe allegations against Jefferson. That panel disbanded with the end of the last Congress. But she bristled at Boehner's resolution as an encroachment into her jurisdiction.
"I refuse to allow these proceedings to be politicized by House Republican leadership," Tubbs Jones said in a statement.
GOP leaders made no moves to expel Reps. Tom DeLay, R-Texas, and Robert Ney, R-Ohio, from the House after their indictments last year.
Rep. Steven LaTourette, R-Ohio, decried the attempt to expel Jefferson before any conviction, saying, "Even members of Congress are entitled to a presumption of innocence."
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