Democrats say that U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, a former ethics committee chairman, and U.S. Rep. Tom Cole, a former Oklahoma secretary of state, should not be permitted to participate in future investigations of the House majority leader's conduct because they have contributed to his legal defense fund, the Houston Chronicle said Friday.
In 2004, the committee deferred action on a complaint initiated by a Democrat who lost his House seat in a DeLay-backed redistricting effort suggesting Delay had broken Texas campaign finance rules while funding state legislative races. Three former DeLay political associates have been indicted by Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle in an investigation critics say is political payback against the Texas Republican.
The subject of several complaints made by Democrats to the ethics committee in the last two years, most of which were found to have little or no merit, DeLay's conduct was the subject of several separate cautionary reminders, advising he need to insure his conduct did not bring disrepute on the House as a whole. That conclusion, several analysts have said, provided a convenient way to dispose of the investigations while allowed both sides to talk about the results in favorable terms.