CREW Files Ethics Complaint Against Doc Hastings and His Former Chief of Staff

Brian Zick

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) asked the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct to investigate whether Rep. Doc Hastings (R-WA) and his former chief of staff, Ed Cassidy, violated House rules by improperly contacting a sitting U.S. Attorney. The U.S. Attorney in Seattle, Washington, John McKay, testified before the Senate that, in 2004, during a series of vote recounts in which a Democrat was narrowly elected governor of Washington, Rep. Hasting’s then-Chief of Staff Ed Cassidy called, informing him that “the purpose of the call was to inquire on behalf of Congressman Hastings” about the status of the ongoing investigation to inquire about the status of a federal investigation into voter fraud. Mr. McKay was “concerned and dismayed by the call,” believing the conversation might constitute obstruction of justice. (…) Mr. Cassidy’s call to Mr. McKay -- at Rep. Hastings’ behest -- violates chapter 7 of the House ethics manual, which prohibits members from contacting executive or agency officials regarding the merits of matters under their formal consideration. House rules also state that if a member wants to affect the outcome of a matter in litigation, the member can file a brief with the court, make a floor statement, or insert a statement into the Congressional Record. Directly calling officials to influence an on-going enforcement matter is not an option. Moreover, the rules state that a member may not claim he or she was merely requesting “background information” or a “status report” because the House has recognized that such requests “may in effect be an indirect or subtle effort to influence the substantive outcome of the proceedings.” The conduct of Rep. Hastings and Mr. Cassidy may also violate the requirement that members conduct themselves in a manner that “reflects creditably on the House.” In a precedent cited by the House ethics committee when it admonished former Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX), the House has held that members are prohibited from asking an executive branch employee to engage in an activity having an impermissible political purpose. Paul Kiel at TPM Muckraker notes that Cassidy currently works for GOP Minority Leader John Boehner.

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