Yet another tutorial in how not to do damage control.
Yesterday, former U.S. Attorney for Seattle John McKay testified that he'd been contacted by Rep. Doc Hastings' (R-WA) chief of staff a few weeks after the November 2004 gubernatorial election, in which the Democrat had won by a scant couple hundred votes after multiple recounts. Republicans had alleged voter fraud. McKay testified that Cassidy called him on "behalf of the Congressman" to inquire about the status of any investigation into the alleged fraud.
McKay, immediately on guard, responded (sub. req.) with public accounts of the investigation's status, and then before Cassidy pressed further, told Cassidy that he was "certain" that Cassidy was not asking him to "reveal information" about the status of a probe or âlobby me on one.â Cassidy, McKay testified, agreed that no, sir, he was not doing that, and then the call ended.
So what does Cassidy, who now works for Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH), have to say about it? Here's his statement:
âMy conversation with John McKay was a routine effort to determine whether allegations of voter fraud in the 2004 gubernatorial election were, or were not, being investigated by federal authorities... As the top aide to the chairman of the House Ethics Committee, I understood the permissible limits on any such conversation. Mr. McKay understood and respected those boundaries as well. I am pleased that Mr. McKay recalls both our agreement to respect these boundaries and my subsequent decision to end the conversation promptly.â
"Routine effort?" That makes it sound as if Cassidy makes it a habit to call up federal prosecutors and ask whether their office is investigating Democrats, doesn't it? As CREW has detailed in their requests for investigations of Sen. Pete Domenici (R-NM) and Rep. Heather Wilson (R-NM), it's against the rules of both houses for members to inquire about the status of a particular investigation. Why? It's obvious: because that's an indirect way of applying pressure to a prosecutor to get a move on.
Maybe that's why Rep. Hastings took the opposite tack in his statement:
âEd Cassidyâs call and the conversation that took place were entirely appropriate... It was a simple inquiry and nothing more â and it was the only call to any federal official from my office on this subject either during or after the recount ordeal.â
So either it was "routine" or it was the "only" call anybody from Hastings' office ever made like this. Which is it?