DeLay defends Cunningham's home sale

House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) yesterday defended Rep. Duke Cunningham (R-Calif.) after calls from congressional Democrats to investigate the Republican appropriator for selling his San Diego home to a defense contractor whose firm had received $65 million in federal funds in 2004.

?Duke Cunningham is a hero,? DeLay said during a press briefing Tuesday. ?He is an honorable man of high integrity.?

Cunningham sold his home in 2003 to Mitchell Wade, president of MZM Inc., a Nevada-based defense contractor that specializes in security and intelligence-gathering technology. The company lost $700,000 after it resold the property eight months later, the San Diego Union-Tribune first reported Sunday.

At the briefing, DeLay also defended Democratic Rep. John Murtha (Pa.), who was the subject of a Los Angeles Times article questioning the lobbying activities of Murtha?s brother in connection with passage of last year?s $417 billion defense spending bill.

The article said Murtha?s brother, Robert ?Kit? Murtha, is a senior partner at a Washington lobbying firm that represented 10 companies that received a combined $20.8 million in contracts from the defense bill.

?I know that John Murtha is an honorable man,? DeLay said during the briefing, adding that he did not know any details of the article. ?He is a man of great integrity.?

DeLay would not say if the House planned to investigate either member.

?We?re always concerned when a member of Congress violates the rules of the House,? DeLay said before adding, ?Just because it appears in an article doesn?t mean a thing.?

DeLay recommended that the ethics committee resolve its staffing issue by establishing bipartisan co-staff directors. The committee has been stalled since late April, after a four-month partisan dispute over committee rules, over another partisan clash about whether Chairman Doc Hastings (R-Wash.) could name his current chief of staff, Ed Cassidy, as staff director of the committee.

If the members of the committee cannot agree on one person, DeLay said, they should ?set up a bipartisan? committee staff.

DeLay himself is widely expected to be the target of the committee?s first investigation when it does reconvene for ethical questions surrounding trips he took to Russia, Scotland and South Korea between 1997 and 2001.

Responding to an earlier question about the G-8 summit meeting of world leaders that will be held next month in Scotland, DeLay deadpanned, ?Where are they holding that?? which elicited laugher from the assembled media.


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