Access for a Price?

Access for a Price?

Democrat Andy Hurst criticizes U.S. Rep. Tom Davis.

Standing before a Tysons Corner technology consulting firm at the center of ethics charges involving U.S. Rep. Tom Davis (R-11), Democrat Andy Hurst called for Davis to resign from his chairmanship of a powerful House committee.

"Enough is enough," said Hurst, speaking in front of ICG Government's headquarters. "Tom Davis, resign as chairman of the House Government Reform Committee. You have proven that you are the problem, and not the solution, to the government reform issues that trouble our government today."

Hurst, who is challenging Davis in the Nov. 7 election, convened the press conference in the wake of a six-month Washington Post investigation into Davis' ties to ICG.

ICG is run by Davis' friend and campaign contributor Donald Upson and employs the GOP lawmaker's wife, state Sen. Jeannemarie Devolites Davis (R-34), in a $6,500 per month consulting job. According to the report, ICG's clients enjoyed access to Davis through his relationship with the company.

"Should access to the chairman of the Committee on Government Reform be for sale?" Hurst said. "Does influence peddling have to be a way of life in Washington? Why can't ideas and solutions be the way to get access to members of Congress, not bogus jobs for congressional spouses or campaign contributions given in return for panel positions and time with the chairman?"

In a statement provided to the Connection Newspapers, Davis said it is regrettable that Hurst decided to "take the low road" in his campaign.

"With so many issues facing our country and community such as transportation, immigration and Iraq, his opening salvo is to go after me personally, and even worse, my wife's employment, which predates out marriage and has been thoroughly vetted through the Bipartisan House Ethics Committee."

Hurst has made ethics reform a cornerstone of his campaign since last fall. The latest revelations about Davis, he said, are only one of several recent ethical lapses by the six-term incumbent.

LAST SUMMER, Hurst pointed out, Davis accepted a $13,110 trip last year to Italy to attend the 60th birthday party of a McLean developer.

Plus, Hurst said, the House Government Reform Committee's 2005 holiday party was paid for by lobbyists and defense contractors. Hurst also noted that Davis denied in the Connection Newspapers that he'd ever "taken one nickel from oil companies."

"That's because he doesn't take small change," yelled a woman in the crowd.

"That's right," Hurst responded. "Davis' statement was quickly proven false by reference to FEC reports, which showed tens of thousands of dollars of direct contributions to his campaign from oil industry PACS."

Davis' spokesman, Nick Meads, said that the congressman has hardly shied away from standing up to big oil corporations. Last year, Davis subpoenaed four oil executives to explain why they were paying low royalties for off-shore drilling rights. Davis had the oil companies, Meads said, agree to pay billions more in royalties.

In Davis' statement, the congressman had his own barbs to throw at Hurst. "It is more surprising that [Hurst] would raise such issues when he is a partner in one of the largest lobbying law firms in Virginia, and has received the bulk of his campaign money from trial lawyers and lobbyists," Davis said. "This press conference says more about him than me, but I want to assure voters that our campaign will resist Mr. Hurst's efforts to drag it into the gutter."

As Hurst spoke, amidst sweltering heat, his supporters watched from the shade, sipping bottled water that had Hurst's photo on the label and the slogan, "Congress 2006: Something Different."

Following the candidate's speech, former Fairfax County Board of Supervisors chairman Audrey Moore slammed Davis, her former colleague of a dozen years.

"Tom Davis has sold us out, basically," Moore said. "He's using his power for his own purposes."