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October 07, 2004 - Image 8

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 2004-10-07

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House leader violated ethics law


ethics committee unanimously conclud-
ed yesterday that Majority Leader Tom
DeLay appeared to link political dona-
tions to a legislative favor and improp-
erly persuaded U.S. aviation authorities
to intervene in a Texas political dispute.
The committee's findings were an
extraordinary second rebuke in six days
for one of the nation's most partisan
political leaders and most successful
money-raisers. The Texas Republican
has long been known in the Capitol as
"The Hammer."
The committee of five Democrats
and five Republicans reached no con-
clusions on an allegation that DeLay
violated Texas campaign finance rules.
Instead, the panel delayed action pend-
ing an investigation by state authorities.
Three DeLay associates were indicted
last month in that probe.
DeLay said he considered the com-
plaint against him dismissed, but
accepted the committee's findings.
"For years, Democrats have hurled
relentless personal attacks at me, hop-
ing to tie my hands and smear my name.
All have fallen short, not because of
insufficient venom, but because of
insufficient merit," DeLay said.
The panel wrote DeLay that his con-
duct "created an appearance" of favor-
itism when he mingled at a 2003 golf
outing with an energy company's execu-
tives, just days after they contributed to
a political organization associated with
City bans
of new gas
DETROIT (AP) - Mayor Kwame
Kilpatrick has issued a moratorium
on the construction of new gas sta-
tions in the city, saying too many old
stations have been abandoned and
become eyesores.
Kilpatrick yesterday urged owners
of existing stations to clean up their
properties and put a stop to illegal
activities, such as drug sales, in conve-
nience stores. He signed an executive
order on the moratorium on Sept. 15,
spokesman Howard Hughey said.
"Too many stations have been aban-
doned," the mayor said in a statement.
"Before we green-light new locations,
existing stations must be cleaned up,
and our planning and building depart-
ments must assess if and where new
stations are needed."
Since 1998, 68 service stations have
closed in the city, while 74 stations
have opened in new locations. Some of
the closed stations were converted for
other uses, but most were abandoned,
the mayor's office said.
A total of 379 service stations cur-
rently are in operation in Detroit.
The abandoned gas stations not
only are eyesores, but also are envi-
ronmental hazards as well, the may-
or's office said.
Nasser Beydoun, executive direc-
tor of the Arab American Chamber
of Commerce, whose members own
many Detroit gas stations, said his
organization is working with the city
to improve existing stations.
"Overall, I think the mayor's initia-
tive will help create a better mix of
businesses in Detroit and more diverse
development in neighborhoods," Bey-
doun was quoted as saying in the may-
or's news release.

DeLay lin
DeLay. The Kansas firm, Westar Ener-
gy, was seeking help with legislation
then at a critical stage of House-Senate
DeLay also raised "serious concerns"
by contacting the Federal Aviation
Administration to help locate Demo-
cratic lawmakers, who were fleeing
Texas in an effort to thwart state Repub-
lican legislators from passing a DeLay
engineered redistricting plan.
DeLay's attorney, former Republican
Congressman Ed Bethune, said, "There
are no charges pending against Tom
DeLay anywhere by anybody. There is
no special counsel going to be appointed,
there is no investigative subcommittee to
be appointed. There is no further action to
be taken. There are no sanctions."
Bethune said DeLay hasn't done
things differently from other members
except that he "is under a microscope."
DeLay told the committee - in
explaining his conduct - that he was
working to advance his party's legislative
agenda, but that didn't sway the panel.
"The fact that a violation results from
the overaggressive pursuit of one's legis-
lative agenda simply does not constitute
a mitigating factor," the panel said.
The committee's admonishment
- expressed in the letter to DeLay and
a report criticizing his ethical lapses
- nonetheless spared him a lengthy

ved donatio
investigation by the ethics panel.
While Democrats and government
watchdog groups have unleashed a
stream of criticism of DeLay's conduct,
the findings are unlikely to derail his
ability to push the Republican agenda
through the House if the Republicans
retain control in November.
It was only last Thursday the same
committee, in an investigative report,
admonished DeLay for offering to sup-
port the House candidacy of a Michigan
lawmaker's son, in return for the law-
maker's vote for a Medicare prescrip-
tion drug benefit.
This time, the committee acted on a
three-part complaint from Rep. Chris
Bell (D-Texas), who lost his primary
because of the DeLay-inspired redis-
tricting plan.
DeLay, 57, elected in 1984 to a district
representing the Dallas suburb of Sugar-
land, began his ascent after Republicans
captured the House in 1994 - success-
fully running for the No. 3 position as
majority whip.
As the chief vote-counter and fund-
raiser for House Republicans, he kept
the party united on key votes when it
possessed only a slim majority over the
When Newt Gingrich stepped down as
speaker in 1998 after a damaging ethics
investigation, it was DeLay who played

n to favor
a major role in raising little-known Den-
nis Hastert (R-1ll.) to the speakership. He
became Majority Leader in 2002 after
Dick Armey (R-Texas) retired.
The committee criticized the timing
of the golf outing with Westar execu-
tives at a Virginia resort.
DeLay was "in a position to signifi-
cantly influence" legislation the compa-
ny sought, not only as a House leader but
as a negotiator in House-Senate efforts to
resolve differences in the bill, the com-
mittee said. The company's provision
was inserted in the bill by another law-
maker but eventually was withdrawn.
The allegations of improper contact
with the FAA focused on calls from
DeLay's office on May 12, 2003, to
locate the plane of a Texas Democratic
House member.
The lawmaker and Democratic col-
leagues left the state for Oklahoma to
prevent a vote in the Legislature on a
GOP redistricting plan.
A report from the Transportation
Department's inspector general found
that DeLay's request set off a search that
spread over eight hours and involved at
least 13 FAA employees.
The committee told DeLay that
enforcing the rules of the Texas Leg-
islature "is the responsibility of the
members, officers and employees of
that body."



Mich. court hears dioxin case

LANSING (AP) - The Michi-
gan Supreme Court yesterday probed
whether it, and not the Legislature,
should let residents sue Dow Chemi-
cal Co. to force the company to pay
the costs of testing for future dioxin-
related health problems.
The justices, asking frequent ques-
tions over 90 minutes of arguments,
considered the case of 173 residents who
want the court to recognize medical
monitoring as a legal claim in the state.
High levels of dioxin - a toxin
linked to cancer, birth defects and


other health problems - have been
found along the Tittabawassee River
near Dow's plant in Midland. The law-
suit asks that Dow set up a medical
monitoring trust fund to pay for dioxin
Dow told the court that the Legisla-
ture, not courts, should decide the issue.
"It is a policy-driven decision,"
attorney Douglas Kurtenbach said. "It
is the Legislature who is the arbiter of
public policy."
Justice Clifford Taylor, appearing to
agree, said the court typically defers
to the Legislature, which has enacted
compensation schemes such as no-
fault auto insurance, workers comp
and wrongful death claims.
The court isn't equipped to consider
medical monitoring because there are
major policy questions on how medi-
cal monitoring could affect the state's
business climate, he said.
"This may have a disastrous effect
on Michigan's economy," Taylor said.
But Justice Marilyn Kelly appeared
sympathetic to residents who say they
only want a chance to continue pre-
senting their case to a lower court.
A Saginaw County Circuit Court
judge earlier denied Dow's argument
that no monitoring remedy exists in
Michigan, saying the plaintiffs should
have the chance to prove their case.

The Court of Appeals refused to hear
Dow's appeal.
"Why should we not step up to the
plate?" Kelly asked.
The case is significant because civil
law tradition says plaintiffs cannot
recover damages unless they suffer a
present injury. It has attracted interest
from manufacturers who worry medi-
cal monitoring could lead to frivolous
lawsuits and impose a huge financial
burden on companies that pollute the
But Teresa Woody, the plaintiffs'
attorney, said it's reasonable that a
woman of childbearing age, for exam-
ple, be able to check for abnormal
levels of thyroid hormones possibly
caused by dioxin. Normal levels are
critical to fetal development.
She said many health insurers do not
cover monitoring for dioxin-related ill-
nesses. And because only two or three
labs in the country can conduct dioxin
blood tests, residents need Dow's help,
Woody said.
She also argued that the courts, not
the Legislature, could better handle
medical monitoring issues on a case-
by-case basis.
Dioxin is an ingredient in Agent
Orange and a byproduct of Dow man-
ufacturing and incineration practices
dating back a century.

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