Ethics Panel To Resist Subpoena
WASHINGTON (AP) _ The House ethics committee will resist a subpoena issued by federal officials in Boston investigating the chairman of the House Transportation Committee, congressional officials said Thursday.
The ethics committee is currently conducting its own review of the personal and professional ties between Rep. Bud Shuster, R-Pa., and a transportation lobbyist who was his staff chief for 22 years and remains his leading campaign fund-raiser.
As chairman of the transportation panel, Shuster has considerable influence over the highway and mass transit funding. Last week, a $217 billion road and transit bill was approved unanimously by his committee.
The ethics committee, consistent with past policy, will fight the requests from the U.S. District Court in Boston, said one source, speaking on condition of anonymity. A grand jury in Boston has been investigating Shuster and lobbyist Ann Eppard for at least a year.
Ted Van Der Meid, chief counsel for the ethics committee, would not comment on the subpoena Thursday. But Van Der Meid said the committee resists all such requests on grounds that only the House can investigate its own members under constitutional separation of powers.
``If we didn’t resist, we could never get anyone to testify,″ Van Der Meid said.
The grand jury is reportedly investigating whether Shuster used his influence to help businessmen Richard Goldberg and Nicholas Contos get a settlement for their Boston business properties to make room for a $11 billion construction project known as the ``Big Dig.″
Earlier this month, the grand jury indicted Washington lobbyist Vernon Clark, on charges of conspiring with Goldberg to underestimate business revenues for Clark’s lobbying firm. Clark is also a friend of Shuster.
The decision to resist the subpoena was disclosed in a letter sent to Speaker Newt Gingrich this month by Rep. James V. Hansen, R-Utah, the ethics committee chairman.
Shuster’s lawyer did not return a telephone call for comment. An aide to Shuster said the congressman had no knowledge of the subpoena.
Shuster’s dealings have been under scrutiny since the disclosure in 1996 that he and his family stayed overnight at Ms. Eppard’s home many times, a potential violation of a federal gift ban.
Ms. Eppard had been Shuster’s congressional chief of staff for 22 years.