The Washington Post reports: The House ethics committee admonished Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) last night for offering a political favor to a Michigan lawmaker in exchange for the member's vote on last year's hard-fought Medicare prescription drug bill.
After a six-month investigation, the committee concluded that DeLay had told Rep. Nick Smith (R-Mich.) he would endorse the congressional bid of Smith's son if the congressman gave GOP leaders a much-needed vote in a contentious pre-dawn roll call on Nov. 22. ...
According to the report, Nick Smith told ethics committee investigators that DeLay approached him on the House floor during a series of votes leading to the final showdown on the Medicare bill. Smith told the panel that DeLay "told him that he would personally endorse Representative Smith's son in the Republican primary" if Smith "voted in favor of the Medicare legislation." According to Smith's version, DeLay added, "that's my last offer," and the congressman "teared up" at the majority leader's offer. The exchange lasted "about eight seconds," Smith said.
The report said DeLay testified to the committee "that he did say words to the effect of: 'I will personally endorse your son. That's my final offer.' " DeLay recalled that the exchange took place before the three-hour roll call on the bill's final passage, the report said.
DeLay told the investigators that Smith "first raised the subject of his son's campaign," and DeLay believed Smith was "fishing to see what I would say."
DeLay had brushed aside a similar overture from Smith several weeks earlier, but this time offered to endorse the son in exchange for Smith's vote, the report said. DeLay told investigators that if Smith had voted for the Medicare bill, then the majority leader "would have made good on his promise and endorsed Brad Smith." -- Ethics Panel Rebukes DeLay (washingtonpost.com)
Roll Call add these details: Reps. Kenny Hulshof (R-Mo.) and Mike Doyle (D-Pa.), chairman and ranking member, respectively, of the four-member investigative subcommittee that handled the Smith probe, “deliberated extensively” on whether the Majority Leader had broken House rules by offering his endorsement in exchange for Smith’s vote. They acknowledged that is normal practice for a “Member’s conditioning support” for legislation in return for “future consideration” by party leaders or their colleagues, and admitted that it is one way for senior lawmakers to maintain “party discipline.”
But in this case, the subcommittee felt DeLay may have strayed over the line of acceptable behavior, although the full committee voted not to pursue the matter any further. “The promise of political support for a relative of a Member goes beyond the boundaries of maintaining party discipline, and should not be used as a basis of a bargain for Members to achieve their respective goals,” the report stated.
However, the ethics committee admitted it was treading on unexplored ground in reviewing DeLay’s interaction with Smith during the Medicare vote. “The issues raised by the conduct of the Majority Leader in this matter are novel and the implications of such conduct have never before been addressed or resolved by the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct,” according to the report. “Indeed, the Majority Leader’s testimony indicates that he did not believe that he acted improperly under House rules during his encounter with Representative Smith.” -- Ethics Panel Admonishes DeLay, Michigan's Miller and Smith (Roll Call)
Thanks to Trevor Potter for sending me the Roll Call article (since I don't have a subscription).