Mollohan: Hell no I don’t go

The senior Democrat on the House ethics committee said Friday he won’t step down from his post, contending there’s no truth to allegations by a conservative group that he violated financial disclosure laws.

Rep. Alan Mollohan of West Virginia accused Republicans of orchestrating the complaint by the congressional watchdog group and then using it to call for him to leave the ethics committee.

The National Legal and Policy Center said Friday it filed a complaint in February with federal prosecutors, alleging that Mollohan consistently undervalued assets on congressional financial reports and also omitted assets. Mollohan denied any wrongdoing.

Channing Phillips, principal assistant U.S. attorney in Washington, said Friday that he could not confirm receipt of the complaint or comment on any pending criminal investigation.

The chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, Rep. Tom Reynolds, R-N.Y., said the allegations should lead Mollohan to resign from the ethics committee.

Democrats have made ethics a major campaign issue this election year. They accused majority Republicans of allowing “a culture of corruption” that included an influence-peddling scandal involving a former lobbyist, Jack Abramoff. Republicans have blamed Democrats for partisan battles that have kept the evenly divided ethics committee from opening any major investigations since the current Congress convened in January 2005.

House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., said Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California must decide whether Mollohan should step down but indicated she should take that course. Hastert said he asked a Republican committee chairman, Rep. Bob Ney of Ohio, to step down from his chairmanship because he’s being investigated in the Abramoff scandal.

“There’s a precedent for it,” Hastert said. “I was wondering why (the ethics committee members) ere dragging their feet on this whole ethics thing. I don’t know if that has anything to do with it or not. We’ll see.”

Pelosi said she would not ask Mollohan to step down.

Mollohan said the complaint, coupled with Reynolds’ statement, is “the best evidence of the partisan political nature” of Republican allegations that Democrats are responsible for the ethics panel’s stalemate.

“No, I’m not going to resign because of this spurious attack. The attack is unethical on it’s face,” Mollohan said. “I have not heard from any prosecutor.”

Kenneth Boehm, chairman of the National Legal and Policy Center, said he has been contacted by federal prosecutors about his complaint.

Boehm refused to release what he said was a 500-page complaint because some of the information it contains has not been thoroughly verified.

However, he said the center did verify that between 1996 and 2004 Mollohan repeatedly failed to disclose real estate and financial assets and loans. The center has deeds and other records to prove its allegations, Boehm said.

The center began investigating Mollohan’s assets after his financial disclosure reports showed a significant jump in his net worth between 2000 and 2004, Boehm said. The center had been looking at all the disclosure reports of members of the House Appropriations Committee.

Mollohan’s 2000 report indicated he had assets worth between $170,012 to $562,000 and liabilities of $170,000 to $465,000. The disclosure reports allow congressmen to report their finances within broad ranges.

Mollohan’s 2004 report showed he had assets of $6.3 million to $24.9 million and assets of $3.66 million to $13.5 million.

“The question remains, so where did his greatly improved financial holdings come from?” Boehm said.

The Wall Street Journal, in Friday’s editions, first reported on Mollohan’s finances.