Ethics Wars

House Republicans, wounded by lobbyist scandals, have called on the House Ethics Committee to investigate more than 10 Democratic members headed by Jan Schakowsky of Illinois and Nydia Velazquez of New York.

Schakowsky’s husband, consumer advocate Robert Creamer, has been indicted in a check-kiting scheme. The Republicans contend that because she signed tax returns with him, she should be investigated by the Ethics Committee. Velazquez is accused of violating House ethics guidelines by using her congressional office to endorse Judge Margarita Lopez Torres as Brooklyn Surrogate Court judge.

Democrats on the Ethics Committee are no more eager to explore these cases than Republicans are to investigate their accused colleagues. The only House committee evenly divided by party, Ethics is currently immobilized.

Unexpected Specter

Sen. Arlen Specter, an unyielding Republican advocate of abortion rights, last Monday addressed more than 100 anti-abortion protesters from his state of Pennsylvania who had just participated in Washington’s 33rd annual March for Life.

To the dismay of pro-life activists, Specter insisted on attending a reception for the marchers at the Capitol Hill Club. Before Specter arrived, he was lavishly praised by Pennsylvania’s anti-abortion Republican Sen. Rick Santorum. Specter’s performance as Senate Judiciary Committee chairman, said Santorum, "was wonderful and very, very key to Judge [Samuel] Alito’s confirmation" for the Supreme Court.

Santorum, facing a tough re-election challenge, was criticized by his conservative base when he supported Specter’s renomination in 2004. Pro-lifers at the reception did not object to Santorum’s remarks, but several left the room when Specter began to speak. Specter declared he would not be there as a U.S. senator were it not for Santorum.

Pro-Kelo Republicans

The nation’s Republican mayors, in a closed-door White House meeting last week, nearly unanimously supported the U.S. Supreme Court’s Kelo decision permitting local governments to force property owners to sell or give way to private developers.

The GOP mayors, in Washington for the U.S. Conference of Mayors winter meeting, heard a report on the Kelo decision by Dearborn, Mich., Mayor Michael A. Guido. Chairman of the conference’s advisory board, Guido opposed undermining the Supreme Court’s ruling.

Anaheim, Calif., Mayor Curt Pringle, a former speaker of the California Assembly, objected with arguments that reflected widespread Republican abhorrence of Kelo. Guido insisted the mayors support local government’s authority, and not a single additional mayor rose in support of Pringle.

Miscounting Bean

Teamsters union leaders are furious with freshman Democratic Rep. Melissa Bean of Illinois for telling WMAQ-TV in Chicago Dec. 11 that "I never made a commitment" to vote against the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA). They claim she broke her promise when she voted for the treaty.

A senior Teamsters official, who asked not to be identified, told this column that on two occasions, Bean promised him she would be against CAFTA even if a Democrat were elected president in 2004 and asked her support for it. The union learned she had flipped from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a major CAFTA backer.

Bean was supported by organized labor (including the Teamsters) in 2004 when she defeated Rep. Phil Crane, the House’s senior Republican, in a heavily Republican Chicago suburban district. Unions this year are withholding support.

Ford Loves Jesse

The conservative National Legal and Policy Center (NLPC) last week attacked Ford Motor Co. for contributing $100,000 to the Rev. Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow/PUSH Wall Street Conference in New York Jan. 8-11 shortly before it announced the layoff of up to 30,000 workers and closure of 14 plants.

"Longtime employees who actually build cars are being let go as payments continue to a controversial figure like Jesse Jackson," said NLPC senior fellow Carl Horowitz.

The conservative group had urged Ford not to fund the January meeting, noting anti-Semitic remarks at a Rainbow/PUSH conference in Chicago last June. Ford Vice President Steven K. Hamp replied that "we do not and will not condone such behavior," but added the company did not plan "to reconsider our support."