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Scholar Assails House Handling of Ethics Case

October 11, 2000|From Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The House Ethics Committee, which rebuked Rep. Bud Shuster for committing "serious official misconduct," also allowed him immunity from prosecution, an unprecedented move that a critic called inappropriate.

The panel found last week that Shuster (R-Pa.) improperly accepted gifts and misused congressional staff for political reasons, but it spared him from penalties harsher than written reprimand.

It also asked the Justice Department to grant immunity after Shuster refused to turn over office calendars from 1995 and 1996, citing "national security" and "attorney-client privilege" concerns.

The Justice Department granted Shuster immunity in March that protects him from incriminating himself by turning over documents.

The information Shuster sought to protect included his cholesterol count and items dealing with breeding horses, according to the report.

Norman Ornstein, a congressional scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative Washington-based think tank, said the immunity grant reflects badly on the committee. He called it an embarrassment.

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