House GOP Replaces One Ethically-Challenged Member with Another
by Jonathan Singer, Thu May 10, 2007 at 10:51:50 PM EDT
House Republicans, whose corruption problems did not die with their majority, might have though they were beginning to alleviate this issue when California Rep. John Doolittle, facing an FBI investigation, agreed to step down from the powerful House Appropriations Committee. Unfortunately for the House GOP, however, their leadership was apparently unable to find a replacement for Doolittle on the committee who was not under scrutiny for possibly unethical and illegal actions, so they had to settle on another questionable California Republican, Ken Calvert. Jackie Kucinich has the story in Friday's issue of The Hill.
Although the House Republican Conference yesterday ratified Rep. Ken Calvert (R-Calif.) as its choice to replace Rep. John Doolittle (R) temporarily on the House Appropriations Committee, Calvert faced stiff opposition from conference members concerned that ethics allegations against him could hurt the party.
According to a Republican inside the room, Rep. Ray LaHood (R-Ill.) encouraged members to "not go back," reminding them of the heavy toll ethical scandals took during the 2006 election cycle.
Prior to the selection, questions had been raised as to whether Calvert should be appointed to the committee because of allegations that he helped to facilitate the passage of an earmark that benefited him financially. The lawmaker has denied any wrongdoing.
A second Republican present at the meeting reminded members that while they may support Calvert, the Democrats could force a vote on the floor before Calvert could be placed on the committee.
This is not the first time in Calvert's career that he has come under heat. Not long after Calvert first went to Congress in 1993 police found him with a prostitute in his car. Around that same time, it was reported that Calvert and his ex-wife owed more than $15,000 in back taxes.
In some ways, news of his potential ascension to the appropriations panel (and it is potential; Dems could move to block his appointment) might in fact spell trouble for Calvert. Going up for this new position, his alleged efforts to secure earmarks for his own benefit will almost undoubtedly be given a closer look, both by the opposition researchers and the media, so though he could have more power he could also be in for more scrutiny.
And it is not as if Calvert is unbeatable. Although he has received at least 60 percent of the vote in his past four reelection campaigns, there was a stretch during the 1990s when Calvert was unable to top 56 percent in any of his bids for reelection. Calvert's district, California 44, isn't the most competitive in the state. Yet with a lean of about 6 points more Republican than the nation as a whole in presidential elections (according to the Cook Partisan Voting Index), Calvert's district is significantly less Republican than that of his predecessor on the appropriations panel, Doolittle, who came so close to defeat last year that he was unable to secure 50 percent of the vote even in a district that leans about 11 points towards the GOP.