Group Urges House Committee to Expand DeLay Probe

The private group Common Cause urged the House ethics committee to expand its investigation into a trip that Rep. Tom DeLay made to England and Scotland, to determine if it amounted to a gift in exchange for legislative favors.

The committee also should examine whether the 2000 trip, which included golfing in Scotland, violated House rules because it was primarily recreational, Common Cause president Chellie Pingree wrote committee leaders on Thursday.

DeLay, who recently stepped down as House majority leader after being indicted in Texas on conspiracy and money-laundering charges, has denied that the $70,000 trip was improperly paid for by Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff (search).

DeLay, R-Texas, has asked the ethics committee to review his travel after reports that Abramoff or his clients paid some of the travel expenses. House ethics rules bar members or their aides from accepting trips from registered lobbyists.

The Justice Department is investigating Abramoff on separate federal corruption and fraud charges.

Common Cause cited a British Home Office document stating that U.S. officials are looking into whether Abramoff "was involved in obtaining legislative assistance from public officials in exchange for arranging and underwriting trips to the U.K."

It said U.S. and British officials have confirmed that DeLay is the "leading congressman" mentioned as being involved in that investigation.

The ethics committee does not normally respond to complaints from outside groups. Investigations are launched either after a complaint from a House member or on the committee's own initiative.