Wednesday, December 29 2004
THE PATHETIC ETHICS OF JIM McDERMOTT: It's bad enough that Jim McDermott went to Baghdad in October 2002 and called the President of the United States a liar. Or that the following month the voters of Washington state's 7th Congressional District added insult to injury by reelecting McDermott with 75% of the vote.

This year, in an October 22 court decision over the question of McDermott's involvement in leaking the transcript of an illegally intercepted phone call in 1997, Judge Thomas Hogan held that McDermott's "willful and knowing misconduct rises to the level of malice." McDermott, who is appealing the decision, has been ordered to pay a $60,000 fine and all the legal costs in the case, which could run close to $600,000. Once again, voters didn't seem to care: two weeks after the judge's ruling McDermott won reelection to a ninth Congressional term with 81% of the vote.

As most of you probably remember, the case against McDermott involves the now famous 1997 conference call regarding the ethics investigation of Newt Gingrich that was surreptitiously recorded off of the cell phone of Rep. John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) by a couple in Florida. The couple then passed along a transcript of the illegally taped conversation to McDermott who promptly leaked it to The New York Times and The Atlanta Journal Constitution. At the time McDermott was the ranking member of the House Ethics Committee.

The Florida pair who taped the phone call eventually pleaded guilty to violating wiretapping laws and received fines of $500 each. McDermott denied leaking the transcript and was never charged with a criminal offense, but he did resign his seat on the Ethics Committee.

Joel Connelly of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports today that in the wake of the recent court decision McDermott fired off a rather odious fundraising letter titled, "Newt Gingrich Yesterday, Tom DeLay Today:"

"Exercising his First Amendment rights," [the letter] says, "McDermott used the press to expose Gingrich's deceptive behavior in violation of an agreement with the ethics panel."

The McDermott letter claims that the GOP leadership "continues to use the courts" to "pursue" him.

It is a dubious claim. Boehner is no longer in the leadership. Gingrich and then-majority leader Dick Armey are long gone from Congress.

Instead, the letter takes after House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, and invites givers to "help continue the fight for Democratic values."

Only indirectly is the letter's real purpose disclosed: Its goal is not to fund any campaign, but to pay McDermott's legal fees. "We cannot allow Republican leaders to financially destroy a member of Congress who has a proven track record of standing up for endangered democratic values," it states.

The truth is far different. McDermott could have settled with Boehner. The Ohioan simply asked for an apology to the House, an admission of wrongdoing and a $10,000 donation to charity. Instead, McDermott is appealing the latest judgment, and wants donors to foot the bill.

Thanks to the recent court decision, after seven long years the House Ethics Committee has finally decided to launch an investigation into McDermott's behavior. Let's hope they concur with Judge Hogan, conclude the obvious and charge McDermott with violating the standards of conduct and the ethics rules of the House. And let's hope the voters of Washington state's 7th district take notice this time and go find themselves a better representative. - T. Bevan 9:45 am Link | Email | Send to a Friend

 
 

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