House of Hypocrites

While congress is set to sit in judgment of President Clinton, many of its members have their own indiscretions to deal with. Lucky for them Ken Starr isn't investigating them and the notoriously lax ethics committee is.

Called into account?: Hardly. When the Senate Ethics Committee investigated the S&L matter, it concluded that the $54,000 Stiles paid was not a payment, but a "cost overrun." The committee also declined to investigate the Packwood matter, as well as the phone fundraising matter.

Final outcome: Ran but bowed out in 1996 Republican Presidential Primary. Currently Chairman of the Senate Health Care Subcommittee.

vox populi, vox dei: "Senator Phil Gramm has a charmed way with the Senate Ethics Committee. Faced with questions about the Texas Republican, the committee does not bother to investigate. It simply accepts his version of the events, provided in secret correspondence, and then quietly issues a letter that the Senator can use to deflect critics." —New York Times editorial, April 18, 1994.

Rep. Henry Hyde
Rep. Henry Hyde


The red flag: A 1994 draft complaint alleges that Santorum violated the House ethics rules by using government staff for campaign and fundraising purposes.

Called into account?:Nope. CAP drafted the complaint, but couldn't find any member willing to file it with the Ethics Committee.

Final outcome: Then-representative Santorum was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1994.

vox populi, vox dei: "The Santorum memorandum illuminates the appearance and possible reality of an improper linkage between congressional and campaign activities by Congressman Santorum. These possible ethical violations warrant a full investigation by your committee." —Gary Ruskin and Ralph Nader of the Congressional Accountability Project, to Jim McDermott, then-chairman of the House Ethics Committee.


The red flag: Costello was revealed as an unindicted coconspirator in the case of old friend Amiel Cueto, convicted of obstructing justice in a federal investigation of illegal gambling. Costello also voted for a bill that benefited a casino deal in which he allegedly had an undisclosed interest. (Costello has denied these charges.)

Called into account?: Nope. No House member has shown an interest in filing any formal complaint.

Final outcome: Costello managed to find a legal loophole that allowed him to use $42,659 in campaign funds to pay for legal costs related to the Cueto matter.

vox populi, vox dei: "He had warned Cueto, a lawyer and friend since childhood, of the dangers of representing and joining in business ventures with Thomas Venezia, a topless club magnate."—The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, March 24, 1998, reporting on Costello's characterization of his relationship with Cueto.


The red flags: DeLay effectively told lobbyists that contributions to Democrats would mean no access to his office. Also, he's developed an intriguing pattern of favorable actions for businesses that retain brother Randy as a lobbyist.

Called into account?: With great difficulty. The CAP's Ruskin spent seven months in 1996 trying to get a complaint filed—and managed to do it only after gathering three Letters of Refusal. The complaint, citing DeLay's threat of shutting out financially unfriendly lobbyists, was delayed even longer when a moratorium on ethics investigations was declared from February to September 1997.

Final outcome: DeLay was cleared by the Ethics Committee in November '97. He's still the majority whip, and has called for Clinton's resignation on the grounds that the president lacks "moral authority."

vox populi, vox dei: "He is clearly abusing his position." —Bill Magavern, Director of Public Citizen's Congress Watch, on Tom being lobbied by brother Randy.


The red flags (public):Though married with four children, Hyde had a five-year affair, from 1965 to 1969, with Cherie Snodgrass, married mother of three. Cherie's ex-husband refers to the devoutly Catholic prolife Hyde as "the hypocrite who broke up my family." Hyde was also a director of the failed Clyde Federal Savings and Loan, which cost taxpayers $67 million to bail out and was subjected to criminal prosecution. Though the S&L eventually settled with the federal government, Hyde didn't pay a dime.

Called into account?: On the S&L matter, CAP asked the FDIC, and over 20 Democratic House members, to probe Hyde's conduct more specifically; the agency and the Democrats declined. Regarding Snodgrass, Salon, the online magazine, broke the story of the affair last week, giving supporters and detractors an interesting glimpse of Hyde as a '60s-vintage cad lavishing jewelry and gifts on a kept woman.

Final outcome: Still the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Hyde is determined to "deal judiciously with serious felony allegations" against the president despite attempts to "intimidate me."

vox populi, vox dei: "She's just so fed up with [Hyde], with how two-faced he is. She knows she wasn't his first [mistress] and she wasn't his last. She hates his antiabortion stuff, and all the family values stuff. She thinks he's bad for the country, he's too powerful and he's hypocritical." —Cherie Snodgrass's daughter, in Salon.


The red flag (public): The married Burton recently admitted to fathering an illegitimate son. In a more "official" capacity, he allegedly shook down lobbyist Mark Seigel for a donation.

Called into account?: Fear of revelations in an upcoming Vanity Fair profile led Burton to admit his extracurricular fatherhood. Also, there's an ongoing FBI probe of the campaign finance allegations.

Final outcome: Fallout from the Vanity Fair story should determine the final outcome for Burton.

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