WASHINGTON – The Justice Department (search) said Thursday it would review complaints from political watchdog groups that Republican House leaders tried to bribe Rep. Nick Smith, R-Mich., to vote for a Medicare bill.
Smith voted against the bill despite what he described as threats against his son, Brad Smith, who is running for the House seat his father is vacating next year.
Nick Smith said his own party's leaders offered money for his son's campaign if he voted for the bill and that they threatened to support other GOP candidates for the seat if the congressman voted against the legislation.
"Bribes and special deals were offered to convince members to vote yes," Smith wrote in a Nov. 23 newspaper column.
Mark Glaze of the nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center (search) said if the allegations are true, House members violated a federal law against bribing public officials.
The law allows people to verbally persuade lawmakers, Glaze said, but doesn't allow them to offer something of value to change a vote. His group filed a complaint Wednesday, as did a separate group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics, which has Democratic ties.
Justice Department spokesman Mark Corallo said the complaints were received and will be reviewed, which is normal procedure.
At a news conference Thursday, Acting Deputy Attorney General James Comey said that he wasn't familiar with the Smith allegation but that "obviously whenever we get a request to investigate, we read it carefully and make an evaluation" on whether to launch an investigation.
House Speaker Dennis Hastert's office has denied threats were made.