Rep. Adam Smith told KUOW's Ross Reynolds (The Conversation, m-f, 1-2p) Friday that there "absolutely" should be an investigation of Rep. Doc Hastings, after former U.S. Attorney John McKay testified that Hasting's chief of staff Ed Cassidy caused him "concern and dismay," by improperly calling to ask whether his office was investigating allegations of Democratic voter fraud in the gubernatorial election.
This is in direct violation of house ethics rules; as Hastings probably knew- he was Chairman of the House Ethics Committee at the time!
Smith said, "... [to have] made calls on specific investigations- clearly trying to pressure them to pursue Democrats, or Republican interests- a line has clearly been crossed."
Cassidy’s call to McKay, at Rep. Hastings’ behest violates chapter 7 of the House ethics manual, which prohibits members from contacting executive or agency officials regarding the merits of matters under their formal consideration.
Melanie Sloan from the liberal watchdog group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics told Reynolds that the Department of Justice's Office of Legislative Affairs is the proper liaison between Members and officials for such inquiries.
"Requesting 'background information' or a 'status report,'" she said, "can be an insidious pressure unto itself." (Listen to the KUOW interview here).
Will House sanctions happen against Hastings ? It's doubtful.
Outside interests may not file ethics complaints against members of Congress. They may only file ethics complaints against each other.
"And that almost never happens," said Sloan.
A congressman from Alabama once told her, "It's hard to ask a colleague for a vote one day and sit in judgment of him the next."
As examples Sloan cited recently convicted Republican congressmen, Duke Cunningham, and Bob Ney- there has yet to be an ethics complaint filed against either them- or Democrat William "cold cash" Jefferson, who's liable to be indicted any time.
We sure hope Adam Smith will do the rare and righteous thing: make that complaint- and show us that Democrats will give equal treatment and oversight to both geese and the ganders.