Ethics Committee Investigating Smith Allegations

Posted February 4, 2004 at 6:33pm

The House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct confirmed Wednesday evening that it had two months earlier initiated an “informal fact-finding” into allegations that Rep. Nick Smith’s (R-Mich.) November vote on a Medicare bill was linked “with support for the Congressional candidacy of his son.”

In a statement issued by Chairman Joel Hefley (R-Colo.) and ranking member Alan Mollohan (D-W.Va.), the panel said: “Under Committee rules our fact finding activities are conducted on a confidential basis, and no further public comment will be made in this matter except in accordance with committee rules.”

The announcement came amid rising tensions that an ethics war may be brewing in the chamber and just hours after Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) approached Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) on the floor to press him to call for an investigation.

Hoyer said Wednesday night that he found it “ironic” that Hefley “said just days ago that they were not investigating this matter,” and he slammed GOP leaders for “giving the perception that they have no interest in pursuing it.”

Smith, who is retiring, initially said numerous Republicans had threatened to withhold financial support for his son’s campaign to succeed him if he voted against the Medicare Prescription Drug Act — one of President Bush’s domestic priorities — but later sought to downplay the incident.

While he has largely stopped responding to press inquiries about the matter, Smith did make reference to the idea that his vote on the Medicare bill could have an effect on his son Brad Smith’s (R) House campaign. Last week, the Michigan lawmaker issued a strongly worded release when the White House raised its estimate of how much the Medicare bill would cost.

“My ‘no’ vote on the bill is looking better all the time,” Smith said in the release. “The easy vote would have been to go along with the gang and vote for it. I’m glad for the support from my family and others to stick to my guns.”