Another ethics-challenged Dem wants leadership job

A U.S. lawmaker ousted as a federal judge in 1989 on corruption charges tried on Wednesday to convince Democratic colleagues he deserves to head a congressional committee designed to help protect America’s security.

Rep. Alcee Hastings of Florida, elected without opposition to an eighth term on November 7, maintains he did nothing wrong and asked fellow Democrats in the House of Representatives to review what he denounced as the unfounded case against him.

Rep. Alcee Hastings (Reuters Photo)

"I implore you … to please give this matter as much time as you can," Hastings wrote in a letter to colleagues on Monday that was released publicly on Wednesday. "I will make you proud if I am selected to chair the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence," wrote Hastings.

In 1981, Hastings, appointed to the federal bench in Florida by Democratic President Jimmy Carter, was accused of soliciting a $150,000 bribe in return for a light sentence for two men convicted of racketeering.

A jury cleared Hastings, but a panel of judges urged he be impeached by the House, which did so in 1988. A year later, the Senate convicted Hastings and removed him from the bench. In 1992, he was elected to Congress.

Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat set to become the first woman to head the House when the new 110th Congress convenes on January 4, is expected to name a chairman of the intelligence committee next month.

There has been indications Pelosi will not pick Rep. Jane Harman, a fellow Californian who now serves as the panel’s top Democrat. Hastings, the panel’s second ranking Democrat, has voiced interest. Pelosi could select any House Democrat.

The possibility of a Hastings chairmanship has drawn fire, particularly from conservative commentators. They note Pelosi, in helping Democrats win control of Congress this month, vowed to clean up how the scandal-rocked House does business.

Last week, House Democrats defied Pelosi and elected Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland as their majority leader over Rep. John Murtha of Pennsylvania, a leading foe of the Iraq war who has had ethics problems of his own.

Hastings, who enjoys the support of fellow members of the Congressional Black Caucus, said he remained silent on the chairmanship during this year’s campaigns because he did not want to possibly hurt Democrats.

But in his letter to colleagues, he said he has been the victim of "misleading, poorly informed, misinformed and sometimes venomous attacks … by pundits, politicians, and editors screaming the word ‘impeachment,"’ while making no mention of his acquittal in a court of law. Hastings said the attacks against him "requires now that I set the record straight."

Hastings said he recently asked for a meeting with Pelosi to discuss the matter. He has not yet received a response.

© 2006 Reuters