The first comes on the heels of the announcement yesterday that House Ethics Chairman Doc Hastings and House Speaker Denny Hastert will allow a new vote on restoring the old rules of ethics investigations. Jim Drinkard of USA Today looks ahead to whether the Ethics Committee can actually do its job in investigating DeLay without the appearance, at least, of conflict of interest. You see, Drinkard reports,
All five Republicans on the House ethics committee have financial links to Tom DeLay that could raise conflict-of-interest issues should the panel investigate the GOP majority leader.
Isn't that why they were chosen for the panel in the first place? Why are we not surprised?
The second story of note (not to slight others I haven't gotten to) comes from the Wall Street Journal's David Rogers (paid subscription, so no link). He reports that DeLay's trips are outrageously expensive in comparison to others and, in particular, what people in his suburban Houston district make for a living:
House records show that a 10-day trip to London and Scotland that Mr. DeLay and his wife took in 2000 to meet British conservative leaders, for example, cost $28,106. That equals six months' income for a median household in Mr. DeLay's district. Discounting the $20,266 attributed to airfare and transportation, the couple's meals and lodging cost an average of $784 a day, according to reports Mr. DeLay's office filed with the House clerk.
Subtracting $2,000 attributed to Christine DeLay's meals, the congressman's hotel and meal expenses averaged $584 per day. By comparison, the State Department's per diem rate for official travel in June 2000 was $318 for London and $306 for Edinburgh. These rates can change to reflect higher costs due to currency fluctuations, but even allowing an extra $50 more per day, Mr. DeLay's expenses were 60% higher than this benchmark.
A few months before Mr. DeLay's London trip, a delegation of House Judiciary Committee and House Internet Caucus members spent three days in the British capital at an average daily cost of $381 per person for meals and lodging. In Scotland, a delegation from the House Armed Services Committee visited in August 2000 at a daily cost of $346 per lawmaker.
Mr. DeLay has said he prefers to travel overseas with a private sponsor, not as part of taxpayer-financed delegations subject to the per diem limits. If properly reported and conducted according to House rules, both kinds of trips are legal, but lawmakers may not accept travel paid for directly by lobbyists.
"When I feel a need and it's important for me to travel overseas, I prefer to go with a conservative organization," Mr. DeLay said last month. Asked if he approached private groups seeking a sponsor or it they approached him, Mr. DeLay said "a little of both."
His staff later said that he misspoke and all such private trips are at the sponsor's initiative, not the congressman's. And even if the costs are high, aides say, the government isn't paying them. (emphasis added)
Of course he wants a private sponsor. And they want him... to pursue their agenda on behalf of corporate donors. DeLay seems willing to eat high off the hog in return.