Ethics site unfair, GOP says

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), in attacking Republican lawmakers for the recent stalemate over ethics, has not changed the

DCCC website to let readers know that all but 20 House Republicans voted last week to revert to the 108th Congress’s ethics rules.

The DCCC’s website takes readers to www.houseofscandal.org, which tries to show that Republican lawmakers are closely aligned with Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas), who has been at the center of the ethics war. The site lists how GOP lawmakers voted on changing the ethics rules in the first place, as well as the contributions they received from DeLay’s political action committee or the donations some made to DeLay’s legal defense fund.

The website concludes, “When Democrats offered a solution to clean up the House by strengthening ethics rules, [the lawmaker in question] voted to make sure it never even came to an up or down vote.”

Some Republicans have alleged that the site is misleading because the House, in fact voted, 406 to 20, to adopt the 108th Congress’s ethics rules.

The site also allows visitors to write letters to the editor for newspapers. For example, a visitor could write to one or more of 14 newspapers listed in Connecticut.

Many editorial pages had opposed the rules change, and some have called for DeLay to step down.

Asked if the DCCC would update the site, Sarah Feinberg, a DCCC spokeswoman, told The Hill, “We’re constantly in the process of updating the website.” She added that the site has attracted 10 times the number of visitors as it did before the 2004 election. But after today, users will no longer go directly from the DCCC site to www.houseofscandal.org.

Before last week’s vote, several House Republican lawmakers told The Hill that the GOP caucus should be more aggressive in responding to Democratic attacks. The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC), for example, does not address on its website the ethics issues swirling in the House.

But NRCC spokesman Carl Forti said the committee’s strategy has been to target specific Democrats.

“We’ve been very active in pushing back,” he said, pointing to press releases that have targeted senior Democrats for alleged ethical violations. “It’s much more effective to target the news rather than [design a website] where people may or may not choose to go.”

The House Republican Conference Committee, led by Rep. Deborah Pryce (R-Ohio), issued a two-paragraph statement after last week’s ethics vote.

“While Republicans continue to believe in the rules we passed at the outset of this Congress, we made the determination that for the good of the House, a flawed but operational Ethics Committee is preferable to a more perfect, non-operational one,” Pryce said.

Greg Crist, the conference spokesman, also said that Pryce prepared memos and talking points for lawmakers before the vote.

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