Democratic leaders in Congress are pressuring newer members of the House not to back a resolution by Rep. Jeff Flake calling for an ethics investigation involving Rep. John Murtha.
Rep. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, assistant to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, sent an e-mail to staffers for first-and second-term Democrats with the subject line: "Don't be a Flake."
The message said Democrats would again be voting to table another Flake resolution and warned that leadership "would have its eyes on any Democrat even thinking about defecting," Politico reports.
Flake, an Arizona Republican, wants an ethics investigation into the relationships that Pennsylvania Democrat Murtha and other veteran Democratic legislators had with the PMA Group.
The offices of PMA, a military-oriented lobbying firm, were raided by the FBI in November. The New York Times reported that investigators were looking for evidence that PMA made illegitimate campaign contributions to Murtha.
PMA allegedly directed tens of millions of dollars in contributions to lawmakers while steering hundreds of millions of dollars in earmarked contracts back to PMA clients.
Murtha, chairman of the Defense Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee, earmarked millions of dollars for the Electro-Optics Center at Penn State University, which then rerouted the money to clients of PMA, according to Politico.
As the House prepared to vote on Flake's resolution, House Minority Whip Jim Clyburn of South Carolina sent an e-mail warning Democrats: "If the Flake resolution is referred to the Ethics Committee, members can expect attack ads to be run against them alleging members to be 'under investigation by the House Ethics Committee.'"
On Tuesday, Democrats did again vote overwhelmingly to table Flake's resolution. But 29 Democrats — the highest number yet — voted in favor of the measure, providing "further evidence of a generational divide that's pitting newer House members who want to 'drain the swamp' against veteran members who don't want to see their colleagues investigated," Politico observed.
The newer Democrats reportedly are concerned about appearing hypocritical for vowing during the campaign to clean up Congress and then declining to do so once in office.
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