WASHINGTON – Two Republican members of the House ethics committee will not participate in any investigation of Majority Leader Tom DeLay (search) because they contributed to DeLay's legal defense chairman, the ethics panel chairman said Wednesday.
The chairman, Rep. Doc Hastings (search), R-Wash., said Reps. Lamar Smith (search) of Texas and Tom Cole (search) of Oklahoma agreed with him that the past contributions "raised doubts — however unwarranted — about whether those members would be able to judge fairly allegations of impropriety against Mr. DeLay."
DeLay, R-Texas, has asked the ethics committee to review his travel and said he would turn over a decade's worth of records to the committee. He also asked to appear before the panel.
Hastings, during a now-resolved dispute over the committee's investigative rules, had previously offered to begin a formal investigation of DeLay. However, it is expected that any committee probe at this point would begin with a preliminary review before any formal investigation.
If Smith and Cole recuse themselves, Hastings said he would ask Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., to designate two House members to serve temporarily in any DeLay investigation. The House will have a 20-member pool, 10 members from each party, to allow the speaker to chose temporary panel members.