Getting away with it
Hello, culture of corruption:
Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Wash., violated House ethics committee standards by giving reporters access to an illegally taped telephone call involving House Republican leaders a decade ago, the ethics panel said Monday.
In a report released days after Congress adjourned, the ethics panel said that McDermott, a former ranking member of the panel, failed to meet his obligations as a committee leader.
“Representative McDermott’s secretive disclosures to the news media … risked undermining the ethics process regarding” former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, the report said.
McDermott’s actions “were not consistent with the spirit of the committee’s rules,” the panel added in a 25-page report.
The committee took no further action beyond release of the report.
A refresher on the case:
The ethics complaint stems from a tape recording made by a Florida couple, who gave it to McDermott in January 1997. The tape recorded then-Speaker Gingrich, R-Ga., in a December 1996 conference call with GOP leaders regarding a separate ethics investigation of Gingrich.
McDermott, then the ethics panel’s top Democrat, leaked the tape to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and The New York Times, which published stories on the case in January 1997.
Once again, there are no consequences for illegal leaks. It’s business as usual.
Way to clean house, Nancy.
The full committee report is here (pdf).
As you may recall, in March, a federal appeals court found McDermott guilty:
In a 2-1 opinion, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled that McDermott violated the rights of House Majority Leader John Boehner, who was heard on the 1996 call involving former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.
The court ordered McDermott to pay Boehner more than $700,000 for leaking the taped conversation. The figure includes $60,000 in damages and more than $600,000 in legal costs.
McDermott leaked a tape of a 1996 cell phone call involving former House Speaker Newt Gingrich to The New York Times and other news organizations.
The full nine-member appeals court vacated the appeals court ruling this spring. Its ruling is due next year.
***update – a lawyer e-mails: “You wrote that a federal appeals court found Rep. McDermott guilty. This is incorrect. The appellate court upheld the lower court’s ruling of a civil rights violation. I do not believe there was ever a criminal proceeding thus guilty is the wrong terminology and implies criminal activity. The proper terms would be that McDermott was found liable for a civil rights violation.***
You may also recall that McDermott had the gall to criticize the NSA’s warrantless surveillance progam.
Do as they say…
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