Republican Representative Doc Hastings, representing the 4th Congressional District in Eastern Washington, was personally selected by House Speaker Dennis Hastert in 2005 to head the House Ethics Committee. Hastert as House Speaker is Hastings’ boss as well as the boss of the other Republicans on the House Ethics Committee. If this isn’t a conflict of interest in investigating Hastert’s role in the Rep Mark Foley House Page scandal, I don’t know what is.
Republican House Speaker Dennis Hastert is in deep trouble. He is being called to task for not responding and acting on accusations that one of his cronies, Rep. Mark Foley of Florida, was sending sexually suggestive electronic messages to underage teenage Congressional pages.
But Hastert is in charge and is pulling a fast one on the media and public. He has claimed responsibility in an attempt to stop further outrage by the public, but his initial statements are day by day being corrected and contradicted.
On Friday, the New York Times quotes a Hastert spokesman, Ron Bonjean as saying, “The speaker has taken responsibility and is taking control of the situation.”
Right, taking control just like he did in 2005 when the House Ethics Committee was purged by Hastert of those Republicans who were too aggressively going after Tom DeLay who subsequently resigned.
As the Seattle PI notes:
“The appearance of favoritism has dogged Hastings from his first day as chairman. Hastert, who is the central figure in the Foley investigation, selected Hastings in early 2005 to replace Chairman Joel Hefley of Utah. He also replaced three Republican members. Democrats — and even some Republicans — called it a purge of independent Republicans who might have sanctioned former Majority Leader Tom DeLay.”
And what has the Ethics Committee done since then. As the LA Times writes:
“ The House Ethics Committee has had little to say as one scandal after another has rocked Capitol Hill since early 2005. Now, can a panel that has been derided as a symbol of congressional dysfunction take up a tough, politically sensitive case a month before an election and produce results within weeks, as promised?
Skeptics abound.”We don’t have a lot of confidence in the Ethics Committee,” said James Benton of the public watchdog group Common Cause.”
The Seattle PI also points to the credibility issues in the current investigation.
“I don’t trust Doc Hastings,” said Melanie Sloan, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, the public interest group that touched off the Foley scandal by giving transcripts of his e-mails and chats to ABC News.
“Hastings was put in that role (as committee chairman) because he was loyal to the leadership. I have no doubts that the committee’s findings will hold Hastert harmless,” she said.
Sloan, along with others, has demanded that an independent counsel be named to head the investigation. She notes that independent counsels have been named in the past to investigate former Speakers of the House Newt Gingrich and Jim Wright. Anything short of that, Sloan said, would subject the committee’s findings to charges of favoritism.
I agree. The House Republicans have shown that they are unable to police themselves. Any investigation by Republicans of Republicans at this point will only be a whitewash. Citizens need to demand an independent counsel be appointed.
Hastings is being challenged in his reelection campaign by Democrat Richard Wright.