Wednesday, May 30, 2007

GOP Fear Fallout From New Ethics Probes

WASHINGTON - A half dozen federal investigations into the activities of Republican lawmakers are raising new worries for GOP leaders who hope to regain the House majority they lost last fall.

In recent weeks, two veteran Republicans surrendered prominent committee seats after FBI agents raided the offices of family businesses. Others have long-running investigations hanging over them. Some conservative activists are criticizing the party's handling of the matters.

Democrats say at least six GOP House members are under some degree of Justice Department scrutiny, although Republicans question whether all the inquiries are active.

In pure numbers, Republicans are approaching the magnitude of their problem at this stage of the 2006 election cycle. Eventually, nine House Republicans faced FBI investigations. Four stepped down, and two - Reps. Randy "Duke" Cunningham of California and Bob Ney of Ohio - are in prison. Of the five who sought re-election, three lost and the other two remain under ethical clouds.

Republicans call attention to the fact that Democrats have their own ethical problems.

Two House Democrats are the focus of federal investigations. Rep. William J. Jefferson, D-La., has been under scrutiny in a bribery investigation since at least 2005, when FBI agents found $90,000 in his home freezer. The Justice Department also is investigating whether Rep. Alan Mollohan, D-W.Va., benefited from steering federal funds to nonprofit groups he helped start. Both Jefferson and Mollohan easily won re-election last year......

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