BOSTON – Gov. Mitt Romney, a potential Republican candidate for president in 2008, said Monday his party should push for more high-level resignations so it can move past the ethics scandal surrounding lobbyist Jack Abramoff.
Romney said House Administration Committee chairman Rep. Bob Ney, R-Ohio, should follow the lead of Rep. Tom DeLay and resign his leadership post because of his links to Abramoff, who pleaded guilty last week in a burgeoning Capitol Hill corruption investigation.
Citing the resignations that preceded his arrival to repair a scandal-ridden 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Romney told The Associated Press: "That's not an indication (Ney) has done anything illegal or improper. It is rather a recognition that when there is a question of ethical conduct, that leadership needs to resign to restore public confidence."
The governor said his party and future Congresses could also prevent similar abuses and restore voter confidence by giving the president a line-item veto. The lack of veto, Romney said, allows members of Congress to lard the federal budget with pork-barrel spending and encourages lobbyists to lavish attention on them.
Unlike Romney and other governors, the president cannot veto individual items in budgets approved by Congress. The president can only accept or reject budgets as a whole.
The governor also criticized a project pushed by another major GOP figure, Sen. Ted Stevens of Alaska, which would provide $223 million in federal funding for a bridge to an island with 50 inhabitants.
"I understand Congress is reluctant to give up the power it has to allow individual members and potentially influential lobbyists to insert wasteful, unnecessary projects into key pieces of legislation that the country needs," Romney said.
"But what this ethical scandal has pointed out is that the power of lobbying and the power of money is not declining, it's increasing."
Romney is chairman of the Republican Governors Association, which is trying to help the GOP retain its gubernatorial majority in the country. The governor is also laying the groundwork for a potential White House campaign in two years.
He announced last month that he would not seek re-election this fall and has already visited early-voting Iowa and New Hampshire.