Flake introduced priority resolution for ethics investigation

CQ Politics:

As lawmakers prepare to consider a $410 billion spending bill carrying pet projects for clients of a lobbying firm under FBI investigation, the House will vote as early as Tuesday on whether to start an ethics investigation into the relationship between earmarks and campaign contributions.

The vote could put majority Democrats and at least a few Republicans in an uncomfortable spot. They will have to choose between authorizing the House ethics committee to investigate the most delicate of political relationships or publicly voting against such a probe.

The action comes as House Democrats are trying to pass a massive fiscal 2009 omnibus spending bill (HR 1105) that carries thousands of earmarks, including several for clients of The PMA Group, a lobbying firm that is disbanding in the wake of an FBI raid of its offices and an investigation into whether it used straw donors to circumvent campaign finance laws.

The pitcher of this political curveball is Rep. Jeff Flake , who introduced a resolution late Monday that calls for an ethics investigation into “the relationship between earmark requests already made by members and the source and timing of past campaign contributions.” Flake’s resolution qualifies as “privileged,” meaning it has priority status for floor consideration.

Flake, an Arizona Republican who has become the scourge of congressional earmarkers, cited numerous recent news stories about PMA’s campaign contributions, its ability to secure earmarks for clients and the FBI probe into whether it complied with the law in making donations.

The resolution, which the House must dispose of by Wednesday, would instruct the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, as the ethics panel is known, to report its findings within two months.

Often when a privileged resolution involves a politically thorny issue, the majority party will move to table — or kill — the measure. The roll call vote probably will be on the motion to table Flake’s resolution rather than the measure itself.

Sure enough, thats what happened, though 17 Democrats crossed over to stand with Flake, including Ann Kirkpatrick, Harry Mitchell and Gabrielle Giffords.

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