January 7, 2006

Democrats want sweeping House ethics investigation

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Democrats seized on a mushrooming
scandal involving a disgraced lobbyist on Saturday to call for
sweeping ethics probes in the Republican-led House of

Rep. Louise Slaughter, a New York Democrat, said lobbyists
had multiplied by the thousands in recent years to the point
where there were now 63 of them for every lawmaker. She said
they were using their campaign donations to influence policy
and even write laws.

Slaughter called on the House ethics committee to
investigate corruption cases involving lawmakers with links to
Jack Abramoff, the lobbyist who pleaded guilty this week in a
U.S. corruption probe.

"The House ethics committee, after a year of inaction, must
get to work immediately to investigate pending ethics and
corruption cases in the House, including those involving
members with ties to Jack Abramoff," she said in the Democrats'
weekly radio address.

"This is a necessary first step to restore a high ethical
standard to the Congress," Slaughter said.

There was no immediate comment from a spokesman for the
ethics committee, chaired by Rep. Doc Hastings, a Washington

But Republicans have sought to cast the Abramoff case as a
bipartisan scandal, noting that some Democrats also received
donations from Abramoff's clients and associates.

Abramoff pleaded guilty to fraud charges and admitted that
he gave golf trips, sports tickets and other gifts to lawmakers
in return for special treatment.

The case has deepened the woes of former House Majority
Leader Tom DeLay, a Texas Republican whom Abramoff describes as
a close friend. It has spurred a debate in the Republican Party
over whether DeLay should return to his leadership post even if
cleared of money-laundering charges in a separate case in

Democrats hope to turn the Abramoff scandal into a major
election-year issue that could help them win back control of
the House in the November elections.