US Congressional Ethics Remain in Spotlight

By Dan Robinson
Capitol Hill
17 October 2006
With a congressional inquiry into the scandal involving former Republican lawmaker Mark Foley's inappropriate electronic messages to male teenage congressional interns in its second week, there have been new developments involving congressional ethics, one of the issues on voter's minds ahead of the November 7 legislative elections.


As members of a House panel heard from more lawmakers and staff members connected with the Foley affair, the ethics spotlight grew to include another Republican lawmaker. 

A federal investigation, and earlier steps by the House ethics committee, involving Pennsylvania Republican Congressman Curt Weldon has been simmering in the background.

Weldon is suspected of helping a lobbying firm run by his are trying to destroy him in an election year.

Back on the Foley matter, the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, continues its bipartisan probe of actions Republican House leaders took or failed to take.

After he went before panel, reporters asked Congressman Dale Kildee, a Democrat on the board overseeing congressional interns, about the direction of that investigation. 

"It [the handling of the Foley matter] certainly was sloppy, but I think that is what we have to ascertain," he said. "Was there some effort to protect somebody and lose sight of the fact that the sole purpose of the page [intern] board is the welfare and safety of the pages."

The ethics panel, along with the intern board, are also looking into the possibility of misconduct by other lawmakers.

Kildee said other allegations separate from the Foley matter have been discussed, but told reporters these steps had not cast what he called a broad net.  

In yet another ethics matter, Senate Minority leader, Harry Reid, responded to media revelations that he used campaign donations,rather than personal funds, to pay bonuses for staff at a Ritz-Carlton hotel where he maintains a condominium apartment, a possible violation of federal election law.

Reid maintained the payments were approved by his lawyers, but announced he would reimburse his campaign fund.

However, he faced political heat on a separate matter involving disclosures to Congress regarding a land deal in his home state of Nevada which brought him a profit of more than one million dollars.

"I bought a piece of land, sold it six years later," he said. "Everything was reported. It was all transparent."

In announcing he would amend his earlier information, Reid called an Associated Press report on the matter inaccurate and misleading, suggesting it was part of efforts by Republicans to affect the result of the November 7 congressional elections, a charge the AP flatly denied.