News Release from Democracy 21
Conflict of Interest
Democracy 21 strongly urges Republican Senators to oppose the effort of Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to serve as both chairman of the Senate Rules Committee and chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) in the upcoming 106th Congress.
"It would be an inherent and blatant conflict of interest for Sen. McConnell to serve as chairman of the Senate Rules Committee and chairman of the NRSC at the same time," Democracy 21 President Fred Wertheimer wrote in a letter delivered today to Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) and all other Senate Republicans.
"This is a time in our nation's life where there is a deep concern among our citizens about the standards and values that apply in our lives. A core ethical standard that applies to Members of Congress is the avoidance of conflict of interest and the appearance of conflict of interest," Wertheimer continued.
"There is simply no question that for Senator McConnell to serve as chief party fundraiser and chief overseer of campaign finance laws at the same time would be a clear conflict of interest and a basic violation of ethical standards," Wertheimer wrote.
Sen. McConnell is in line to be elected by Senate Republicans as chairman of the Rules Committee as a result of the decision by Sen. John Warner (R-Va.) to step down from that position in order to become chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, a position which is being vacated by Sen. Strom Thurmond (R-S.C.). The Rules Committee has Senate jurisdiction over campaign finance laws.
Sen. McConnell is also seeking reelection by Senate Republicans to the post of Chairman of the NRSC, the party committee responsible for raising and spending funds to support Republican Senate candidates. The last time a similar situation occurred was in the1970s when Rep. Wayne Hayes (D-Ohio) chaired the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), the fundraising arm of the House Democrats, at the same time he was serving as Chairman of the House Administration Committee, the House committee with jurisdiction over the nations campaign finance laws.
"As the Watergate scandal, and its enormous campaign finance abuses, exploded in 1973 and 1974, the Hays dual appointments turned into a scandal of its own," Wertheimer wrote. "For almost two years, Hays put a stranglehold on even debating in the House any changes in the campaign finance laws while he filled the coffers of the Democratic party with campaign money. Hays abused and misused one of his positions of power to advance the efforts he was undertaking with his other position of power.
"Since the Hays fiasco in the 1970s, no political party in either the House or the Senate has ever given one Member of Congress the dual jobs that Sen. McConnell is currently seeking of chief party fundraiser and chief overseer of campaign finance laws," Wertheimer wrote. "Senate Republicans in 1999 should not make the same disastrous blunder that House Democrats made in 1973 with Representative Hays by allowing Sen. McConnell to serve in these inherently conflicting positions of power."
For more information, contact Jennifer Fuson at 202-429-2008. Democracy 21 is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization working on eliminating the influence of big money in American politics.
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