In reporting on House GOP leadership contest, AP ignored ethics questions facing Blunt, Boehner


An Associated Press article on the contest between Reps. John Boehner and Roy Blunt to replace Rep. Tom DeLay as House majority leader did not mention the ethics issues surrounding both men.

A January 9 Associated Press article on the contest among House Republicans to replace Rep. Tom DeLay (R-TX) as House majority leader spotlighted leading candidates Rep. John A. Boehner (R-OH) and acting Majority Leader Roy Blunt (R-MO), but did not mention ethics questions facing either candidate.

DeLay announced on January 7 that he was permanently giving up his position as House majority leader. He had stepped down following his indictment for alleged violations of Texas campaign finance laws but had previously vowed to return to the post. The January 7 announcement followed former Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff's guilty plea to allegations of influence-peddling on Capitol Hill. DeLay and a number of his current and former aides have been linked to Abramoff in the Justice Department's investigation of the former lobbyist.

The January 9 AP article reported that House Republicans "are mulling a choice between two veteran Midwestern lawmakers to replace embattled former Majority Leader Tom DeLay." According to the AP, Blunt, who assumed the leadership position after DeLay was indicted in September 2004 for conspiracy to violate Texas campaign finance laws, "began his leadership career as a protege of DeLay." Boehner, according to the AP, "is no stranger to leadership positions," and "has worked among Republicans and at times across party lines to compile a record of legislative accomplishment."

The AP failed to note, however, that Blunt has faced ethics questions of his own. According to a September 28, 2005, Knight Ridder article, Blunt was criticized in 2003 for "slipping into Homeland Security legislation a provision that would have cracked down on illegal and Internet-based cigarette sales," which "would have been a huge boon to Altria, parent of cigarette maker Philip Morris and a company with close ties to Blunt." GOP leaders later removed the provision. Media Matters for America has detailed Blunt's other ethical issues. The AP also failed to note the criticism Boehner drew in 1995 for "distribut[ing] checks from a tobacco political action committee on the House floor before a key vote on a tobacco issue" [The Hill, 7/25/03]. By contrast, the Los Angeles Times reported on January 8: "In June 2003, the Washington Post reported that Blunt had tried to insert into legislation a provision benefiting Philip Morris USA Co. at a time when he had a close personal relationship with its lobbyist and when his son worked for the cigarette maker." The Times also noted that "in the mid-1990s, Boehner was criticized by public interest groups for passing out campaign contributions from tobacco companies to lawmakers on the House floor."

Nor did the AP note Blunt's and Boehner's connections to Abramoff, which, according to a January 9 New York Times report, has some House Republicans worried. According to the Times: "Republican officials said both men would have to reassure colleagues that they would not take a leadership slot only to be caught up later in the scandal surrounding Jack Abramoff, the onetime close associate of Mr. DeLay who pleaded guilty last week to a series of federal charges tied to his lobbying operations."

Posted In
Government, Ethics
Associated Press
Abramoff Scandal
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