Boehner Urges Probe Of Hurckes

Posted April 2, 2008 at 6:44pm

House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) said this week the House ethics committee should not wait for a Member of Congress to file an ethics complaint to begin a formal investigation into whether Rep. Dan Lipinski’s (D-Ill.) chief of staff, Jerry Hurckes, has violated House rules governing his dual roles as a House employee and elected local official.

In an interview Tuesday with Roll Call, Boehner pointed out that the committee has the authority to launch its own investigation and that it is the committee’s responsibility to proactively deal with ethics questions. The panel often holds off on investigating allegations until a Member of Congress files a complaint.

“In a case like this, the Lipinski staffer, members of the ethics committee and staff I’m sure read it just like I did. There’s no reason why they shouldn’t be doing their job on behalf of the institution,” Boehner said. “The ethics committee has the ability to move on their own. They don’t have to sit around and wait for a complaint to be filed. They have the ability to move on their own.”

In addition to serving as Lipinski’s chief of staff, since 1999, Hurckes has also served on the Village of Oak Lawn’s Board of Trustees, an elected body similar to a city council. In campaign literature and public meetings, Hurckes has repeatedly taken credit for securing earmarks for Oak Lawn and intervening with federal agencies on behalf of the community.

Last month, Hurckes, who is running for mayor this year, lashed out at several of his fellow board members for meeting with a D.C.-based lobbyist, accusing them of attempting to do an “end run” around him and claiming that he has worked as the community’s lobbyist.

Under House ethics rules, staff are allowed to hold local elected office but are prohibited from using federal resources for activities connected to their job as an elected official. Additionally, the House Ethics Manual requires aides to ensure the public does not believe the staffer’s constituents are benefiting over the rest of a lawmaker’s district. “In dealing with the public, staff who serve as local officials should always make clear in which capacity they are acting. They should discourage any suggestion that their local constituents will receive special treatment from the congressional office, beyond that received by other residents of the congressional district,” the manual says.

Roll Call first reported questions regarding Hurckes’ dual roles March 24. Lipinski’s aides did not return a call seeking comment.

Boehner argued that the ethics committee should not be constrained by a lack of formal complaint and that they have the authority to begin an inquiry into Hurckes’ actions. “They have a job to do. They should do it,” he said.

The Republican leader also warned that creating a situation where the committee will act only on a complaint from a Member politicizes the panel, turning it into a tool that the parties can use to bludgeon each other with.

“I don’t want to see the ethics committee used as a political weapon. Then you get into who’s filing charges against who. It does not do the Members or the institution any good. This is where the ethics committee should do its job. And they have the ability to go do their job. They have a job to do. They should do it,” Boehner said.