House GOP calls corruption report corrupt

The House Republicans’ campaign operation is charging that a recently released Democratic report on Republican corruption violated ethics rules.

The 103-page report, “America for Sale: The Cost of Republican Corruption,” was compiled by the Democratic staff of the House Rules Committee and released by the panel’s ranking Democrat, Rep. Louise Slaughter (N.Y.), last week.

The report reiterates repeats many of Democrats’ long-held concerns about Republicans’ actions on healthcare, energy, the environment, homeland security and Hurricane Katrina.

“It’s a political document through and through. The headline is all you need to know it’s a political document,” said Ed Patru, a spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC). “It’s nothing more than Democrats using official resources to promote political talking points.”

House ethics rules prohibit members of Congress from using official resources to fund campaign activities. Democrats, however, counter that chronicling Republican ethical abuses is well within the rules.

“It is … deeply ironic that the NRCC would have the audacity to suggest that a detailed, fact-based report documenting the collapse of our legislative system would constitute unethical behavior,” Slaughter said in a statement, “while at the same time, top Republican officials … have willingly undermined ethical behavior in our House.”

Democrats have focused much of their election-year message on condemning a “culture of corruption” that they argue pervades Republican-controlled Washington. More recently, their comments have emphasized the “costs of corruption,” an approach that attempts to link GOP ethical lapses to pocketbook issues such as prescription-drug coverage and high energy prices.

Republicans have attempted to muddy the water, charging that many Democrats suffer from similar ethical shortcomings, what they say amounts to a “culture of hypocrisy.” The flap over the corruption report appears to be the latest example of that ongoing battle.

Ethics experts said it is unlikely that Slaughter’s report would be ruled an ethics violation because it does not contain overt references to campaigns, calls for fundraising or other red flags.

“I can’t recall any ethics ruling that condemned something that vague,” said Brett Kappel, an ethics expert at Vorys, Sater, Seymour and Pease. “If that were the standard, then members would hardly be able to talk about the other party at all.”

Slaughter’s report was featured recently in @Stake, an e-mail newsletter sent out by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC).

The report discusses such issues as the surge in the number of registered lobbyists in Washington — from 10,000 to 34,000 in 10 years — and the Republicans’ infamous K Street Project, through which party leaders sought to install Republicans in top lobbying jobs. It goes on to address Democrats’ frustration with the workings of the Rules Committee, which routinely blocks Democratic initiatives, and the ongoing problems with the House ethics committee, which has not conducted regular business in more than a year.

Yet much of the report deals with concerns about Republicans’ handling of such beyond-the-Beltway issues as the Medicare prescription-drug bill, energy prices, the environment, homeland security, Hurricane Katrina and defense contractors.

“The culture of corruption has thrived in Republican-controlled Washington because the Republican Congress has intentionally allowed the processes that normally hold our politicians accountable to the American people to completely collapse,” the report said.

On the issue of homeland security, Democrats will hear from Stephen Flynn, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, during their caucus meeting tomorrow. Flynn is working on a book about preparing for natural disasters and terrorist attacks on American soil.