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House Ethics Committee Rebukes Delay, Others

The committee found that DeLay violated House rules when he offered to endorse the son of Rep. Nick Smith (R-Mich.), who was running for his father’s seat in Congress, in exchange for Rep. Nick Smith’s support for a Republican prescription drug bill.

“I will personally endorse your son,” Delay reportedly said to Smith on the floor of the House. “That’s my last offer.”

The committee’s report said DeLay agreed with the substance of Smith’s recollection of his statements, but contended it was Smith who first brought up the subject of his son’s campaign. DeLay said he believed Smith was “fishing” to find out what Delay might offer.

In its report on the matter, the committee said “it is improper for a member to offer or link support for the personal interests of another member as part of a quid pro quo to reach a legislative goal.”

Smith ended up voting against the Medicare prescription drug bill, which eventually passed by five votes and became law in December.

DeLay said in a statement Friday that he accepted the committee’s findings, which he referred to as “guidance.”

“I would never knowingly violate the rules of the House,” DeLay said.

Rep. Candice Miller, R – Mich., was also admonished for statements the committee said could have been interpreted as retaliation for Smith’s vote.

After Smith voted “no”, Miller reportedly approached him on the House floor and said, “I hope your son doesn’t come to Congress because I won’t support him.”

Miller told the committee that Smith had previously asked for her assistance with his son’s campaign. Smith denied he had sought her assistance.

Smith said that Miller pressured him to change his vote by threatening to actively work against his son’s election if he did not.

Miller said in a statement Friday that she had “read the committee’s report and accept their findings that I may have committed a ‘discreet violation of the rules.'”

Though the committee found that Smith’s allegations about DeLay’s endorsement offer and Miller’s threat of retaliation were true, it also said Smith’s claims that he was offered specific forms of financial support for his son’s candidacy in return for supporting the legislation were not true.

The committee’s report said those allegations “appear to be the result of speculation or exaggeration on the part of Rep. Nick Smith” and that Smith “failed to exercise reasonable judgment or restraint.”

In addition, the committee said Smith failed to fully cooperate with the committee’s Republican chair and ranking Democratic member during the investigation.

The committee’s investigation stemmed from complaints by Smith who, in the days after the vote, said that during “arm twisting” and bullying by fellow politicians he was offered $100,000 for his son’s campaign along with DeLay’s and others’ endorsement of his son’s candidacy.

Smith later said there was no specific mention of money during the intense pre-vote haggling, but that fellow politicians said they would support his son or actively oppose his son, depending on Smith’s vote on the bill.

In a statement to the committee, Smith said that he inferred that offers from members of Congress and others meant “tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of dollars for my son’s campaign if I voted for the bill.”

Smith said in a press release Friday that he was proud that his son Brad had encouraged him to stand by his decision to vote no on the bill despite the effect it may have had on his race.

Brad Smith’s bid for his father’s seat ended when he lost in Michigan’s August 3 Republican primary.

“The Ethics Committee has ruled. Let us now move on from this unpleasant episode and do the best we can for the American people,” Rep. Nick Smith said in his press statement.

In addition to the admonishment of the three members, the committee said the “late night timing of the vote, the extended period of time for which the vote was held open, and the unusual lobbying pressure on members… exacerbated tensions on the House floor and contributed to an environment in which the usual traditions of civil discourse and decorum among members were not always followed.”

The rebuke of DeLay comes on the heels of the indictment by a grand jury in Texas of three of his top political aides on charges of fundraising violations.

The House Ethics Committee continues to investigate DeLay’s fundraising practices.