Image-minded US House may oust bribe taker

The first congressman to be tried for bribery out of the FBI Abscam investigation faces possible expulsion thi sweek from a House of Representatives taht has grown highly sensitive to charges of corruption.

The House will decide Thursday whether to oust REp. Michael (Ozzie) Myers (D) of New Jersey, who has been found guilty of taking $50, 000 from a Federal Bureau of Investigation undercover agent in exchange for a promise of legislative favors.

No member has been thrown out of Congress since the Civil War. Even Rep. Charles C. Diggs, who was convicted of misusing public funds and sentenced to jail, was allowed to keep his Michigan seat in Congress until he resigned last May.

The crime of bribery is far more serious than embezzlement, said Rep. Charles E. Bennett (D) of Florida, chairman of the House Ethics Committee which recommended expelling Mr. Myers. Representative Bennett told the Monitor, "It's the feeling of the committee that selling your office is the worst thing you can do short of treason."

Mr. Bennett added that Myers's conviction in court had no bearing on the move to recommend expulsion. "We looked at the evidence and testimony that he gave himself," said the Ethics chairman. "He admitted he had taken the money."

At its hearing last week, the House Ethics Committee watched videotapes of Congressman Myers taking money from FBI agents. Bennett said that the Justice Department has agreed to send its evidence to his committee after the trials of all congressmen charged in the Abscam investigations.

Despite the public picture painted by the Abscam revelations, observers inside and outside Congress say that the lawmakers are probably more honest now than at any time in history.

As head of the House Ethics Committee, officially the Committee of Standards of Official Conduct, Congressman Bennett has earned a reputation as a straight arrow. He says that when his committee investigates a member, no one would dare suggest that "this is a good ole boy, so take care of him."

Bennett points out that today the government is under such close scrutiny that it "makes Congress more sensitive" to suggestions of wrongdoing.

David Cohen, president of Common Cause, points to efforts in both the Senate and House to tighten rules about gifts from lobbyists and to require members to disclose their assets and liabilities.

"Compared to an earlier era, there is a greater sense of institutional responsibility," says Cohen. "Fifteen or 20 years ago members would scoff and laugh at this. Now it's no laughing matter."

"The public has successfully insisted on much higher standards," says Mr. Cohen, who applauded the House Standards Committee for taking rapid action in the Myers case. Common Cause is now pressuring the Senate to strip committee chairmanships from any member who has been disciplined, including Sen. Herman E. Talmadge (D) of Georgia, who was "denounced" by his colleagues for financial misconduct.

Even as the House prepares to deal with the Myers case, five similar bribery charges are waiting in the wings.

In a trial expected to end this week, Rep. John W. Jenrette (D) of South Carolina is charged with taking a bribe from undercover agents posing as front men fro fictitious Arab sheikhs.

Rep. Richard Kelly of Florida, the only Republican charged, goes on trial next month. Frank Thompson Jr. of New Jersey and John M. Murphy of New York will be tried in november. The last trial, for Rep. Raymond F. Lederer of Pennsylvania, is slated for January.

The Justice Department is using video-tapes and taped phone conversations to back up the charges, which came out of a two-year sheikhs.

Rep. Richard Kelly of Florida, the only Republican charged, goes on trial next month. Frank Thompson Jr. of New Jersey and John M. Murphy of New York will be tried in november. The last trial, for Rep. Raymond F. Lederer of Pennsylvania, is slated for January.

The Justice Department is using video-tapes and taped phone conversations to back up the charges, which came out of a two-year sheikhs.

Rep. Richard Kelly of Florida, the only Republican charged, goes on trial next month. Frank Thompson Jr. of New Jersey and John M. Murphy of New York will be tried in november. The last trial, for Rep. Raymond F. Lederer of Pennsylvania, is slated for January.

The Justice Department is using video-tapes and taped phone conversations to back up the charges, which came out of a two-year sheikhs.

Rep. Richard Kelly of Florida, the only Republican charged, goes on trial next month. Frank Thompson Jr. of New Jersey and John M. Murphy of New York will be tried in november. The last trial, for Rep. Raymond F. Lederer of Pennsylvania, is slated for January.

The Justice Department is using video-tapes and taped phone conversations to back up the charges, which came out of a two-year sheikhs.

Rep. Richard Kelly of Florida, the only Republican charged, goes on trial next month. Frank Thompson Jr. of New Jersey and John M. Murphy of New York will be tried in november. The last trial, for Rep. Raymond F. Lederer of Pennsylvania, is slated for January.

The Justice Department is using video-tapes and taped phone conversations to back up the charges, which came out of a two-year sheikhs.

Rep. Richard Kelly of Florida, the only Republican charged, goes on trial next month. Frank Thompson Jr. of New Jersey and John M. Murphy of New York will be tried in november. The last trial, for Rep. Raymond F. Lederer of Pennsylvania, is slated for January.

The Justice Department is using video-tapes and taped phone conversations to back up the charges, which came out of a two-year investigation that began probing into organized crime but eventually worked its way to congressmen.

One senator has voiced skepticism about whether the current attention to ethics has improved Congress. Adlai E. Stevenson (D) of Illinois, says, "In the last 10 years there probably hasn't been much change. The levels of ethical conduct are high." He calls instances of crime "aberrations."

Senator Stevenson says that the post-Watergate period has produced a "fit" of interest in legislating ethics and a flurry of new rules to regulate each congressman's finances. But lawmakers have also become insecure and unwilling to take unpopular stands, he warns. "This is a form of ethical weakness which we might not survive."

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