Ken Boehm of the conservative watchdog the National Legal and Policy Center noted a big hole in House rules: "The dirty little secret is that it's legal if it's sponsored by a nonprofit. It's not legal if it's sponsored by the lobbyist." But lobbyists can be on charity boards or join the junkets. Besides, whether you call them lobbyists or not, these groups have a clear agenda. Taiwanese or Korean, they want to boost commerce with their countries.
In a March press conference, Pelosi said that "every trip should be subjected to scrutiny." She also erroneously asserted, "we all have to be careful about whom we receive invitations from, and I haven't taken any trips."
Certainly, DeLay's 2000 U.K. trip flunks the smell test. Even if it was legal, it suggests an arrogance and sense of entitlement that says DeLay looks at public office, not so much as public service, but as privileged rank.
"There's a difference in degree here," Pelosi spokesman Brendan Daly noted, especially if DeLay solicited the trip.
I agree. There is a big difference in degree. But there is not a big difference in the level of opportunism between DeLay and Pelosi.
As Ed Patru of the National Republican Congressional Committee noted, Pelosi has made "ethics the centerpiece of the Democratic Party's message," yet she is the only "the only minority leader who has been hit with fines for fund-raising violations."
Daly wasn't sure if Pelosi was the only minority leader to be fined. That's nice.
Pelosi spent seven years in House ethics committees. Nonetheless, the Federal Election Commission fined her after Team Pelosi created a second political action committee to skirt a $5,000 gift limit. "The main reason for the creation of the second PAC, frankly, was to give twice as much dollars," her treasurer, Leo McCarthy, told Roll Call.
(Daly argued that some at the FEC told McCarthy the second PAC was kosher, a charge the FEC has denied.) Tom DeLay should be in hotter water.
But he is not because Pelosi's hits on him are so opportunistic, you can't take them seriously. Her office notes that the U.S. Korean group was a registered foreign agent -- even after a Pelosi aide traveled on that foreign agent's dime, and didn't report it. She says she supports ethics rules, then tries to skirt them.
It's that kind of talk that leads Americans to hate Washington. Some pols have so little shame, they're happy to give ethics a bad name.