Green Repeatedly Voted to Weaken Ethics Rules

GOP governor hopeful voted for freebies, to protect indicted leader

April 12, 2006

Madison - Republican gubernatorial candidate Mark Green has supported a string of proposals since 2003 to loosen ethics standards for members of Congress, including rules to protect an indicted former GOP leader who contributed about $31,000 to Green’s congressional campaign, a Wisconsin Democracy Campaign review of congressional actions on ethics rules shows.

WDC’s review shows Green voted to:

  • Make it harder to launch ethics investigations. Green voted in January 2005 to require a majority vote of the House Ethics Committee to launch ethics investigations. Previously the committee, which is evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats, could investigate a complaint on a tie vote.
  • Make it harder for criminally charged Republican congressional leaders to lose their jobs. Green was one of 63 GOP congressmen who voted in a November 2004 meeting of majority House Republicans to repeal a rule that required them to automatically give up their leadership posts if they were charged with a crime.
  • Protect then-House Majority Leader Tom DeLay who had contributed about $31,000 to Green’s congressional campaign committee. Green voted in October 2004 to block a resolution to have a congressional committee investigate DeLay for possible ethics violations.

The three votes by Green and other House Republicans were widely reported as an attempt to protect DeLay after a Texas prosecutor indicted three DeLay associates in an investigation of illegal corporate campaign contributions accepted by a DeLay committee and spent in the 2002 Texas legislative elections. Green served as part of DeLay’s leadership team as House majority whip.

The Republican majority later reversed their efforts to loosen ethics rules but only after public pressure and an okay from DeLay himself because he did not believe he would be charged in the Texas investigation.

Green also voted to:

  • Reject an ethics proposal in January 2005 that would have prohibited members of Congress from negotiating with Washington lobbyists for well-paying jobs for themselves in the future.
  • Okay food and travel paid for by special interests. Green voted in January 2003 to let special interests pay for meals for House members and their staffs in their offices, as well as let charities pay for a congressman’s travel and lodging.

In addition to his close ties to DeLay, Green’s campaign manager Mark Graul has gotten free tickets to entertainment and sporting events from an associate of convicted Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Graul and Green’s chief of staff Chris Tuttle were accused of doing campaign work with state resources by a witness in the State Capitol caucus scandal trial of former Assembly Speaker Scott Jensen who was later convicted of three felonies and a misdemeanor.

Green’s campaign boasted in a February 21 statement that Green “has authored sweeping ethics reform legislation in both Madison and Washington.”

Green did author legislation while in the Assembly that now requires lobbyists to electronically post their activity reports. Green has proposed similar requirements at the federal level. On the heels of a Democracy Campaign report showing Green accepted campaign contributions from notorious Illinois political figures to help finance his campaign for governor, he proposed a plan in January to limit contributions from casino interests and from people doing business with the state.

Green donor Joseph Cari, a former finance chairman of the Democratic National Committee, pleaded guilty to attempted extortion in a kickback scheme with another Green donor, Stuart Levine, who has been charged with 28 felonies in one corruption case and 13 counts of wire and mail fraud, extortion and soliciting a bribe in another case. Green also accepted money from Nicholas Hurtgen, a former aide to Republican Governor Tommy Thompson and former senior manager of the Bear Stearns bond house’s Chicago office, who also has been indicted on seven federal charges of extortion and wire and mail fraud. After the Democracy Campaign called attention to the donations, Green’s campaign returned the money.

“Mark Green says he’s for sweeping ethics reform. Sweeping is in the eye of the beholder,” WDC executive director Mike McCabe said. “Actions speak louder than words. The harm done to ethics in government by what Congressman Green voted to do in Washington far outweighs what little good would come out of what he now says he would do if elected governor.”