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Ethics Committee Letter Said Rep. McIntosh’s Conduct ‘Inappropriate’

March 23, 1996 GMT

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The House ethics committee told Rep. David M. McIntosh, R-Ind., that it was ``inappropriate″ for him to distribute a facsimile of a lobbying group’s letterhead at committee hearing.

The letter, obtained by The Associated Press, also said that religious remarks by a McIntosh staffer to an attorney for the lobbying group were ``offensive and improper.″

The Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, as the ethics panel is formally known, broke with tradition by not publicly releasing the letter. In the past, the committee has done so with letters that ended a case _ as this one did with a finding that no House rules were broken.

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Even more unusual, the committee worked with McIntosh on a statement that allowed the lawmaker to announce the committee’s action on his own favorable terms.

At a Sept. 28 hearing of the Government Reform subcommittee he chairs, McIntosh displayed a poster and distributed a letter resembling the stationery of the Alliance for Justice, a coalition of civil rights and public interest lobbying groups.

The document purported to list amounts of federal grants received by the group’s member organizations. Grants were listed for at least two groups that said they receive no federal money.

The improper remarks came in a conversation between a subcommittee staffer, John Praed, and Alliance for Justice counsel Deborah Lewis. Praed is no longer with the subcommittee.

According to Lewis, she asked for more preparation time for the subcommittee hearing because of the Jewish Rosh Hashanah holiday. She said she would be off that day and Praed asked, ``Does that mean you have to work Christmas?″

The letter said, ``The committee believes it is inappropriate for members or staff to create a facsimile of another’s letterhead.

``While we will encourage all committees to require source information on materials handed out at hearings, a disclaimer on a facsimile of a letterhead is not sufficient to make the practice acceptable.″

But the committee, in deciding that further investigation was unnecessary, noted that McIntosh stated at the hearing that he was responsible for the distributed material and apologized to the Alliance for Justice.

The letter expressed ``strong concerns″ about Praed’s comments. ``Questioning persons about their observance of religious holidays is offensive and improper and will not be tolerated in the House,″ the letter said.

The complaints were filed by Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez, D-Ill., on behalf of congressional watchdog Ralph Nader and by Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y. on behalf of the Alliance for Justice.