Lost amid the Eliot Spitzer scandal is a front-page story from the Washington Times that may be just as devastating to Democrats.
According to House Democrat leadership aides, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has asked advisers to examine FEC and other records to determine if Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers may have steered money from an influential Michigan family to other Democrats. The Stryker family of Kalamazoo, Mich., made its fortune from the company that bears its name, though members of the family are not involved in the day-to-day operations. The Stryker Corp. has had issues with federal authorities, including a possible investigation by the Department of Justice into possible violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.
Subsidiaries of Stryker cut a deal with a U.S. Attorney in New Jersey that caught the attention of Conyers, as well as several New Jersey House members, who it turned out have received thousands of dollars in political donations from physicians and organizations with ties to Stryker. Now Conyers has opened an investigation into the matter, which includes demanding testimony of former Attorney General John Ashcroft at a Judiciary Committee subcommittee hearing.
The Stryker family has, according to FEC records, pushed more than $17 million toward Democrat candidates and causes over the years. “The concern is that if Conyers is involved directly with this investigation, and he was steering money from the Stryker family to colleagues for their campaigns and they are sitting on the same committee that is undertaking the investigation, you have more than an appearance of conflict of interest, you have a conflict of interest,” says a leadership aide for Pelosi. “In our current environment, we can’t afford to have too many more of these situations.”
The aide pointed to the fact that both Reps. Frank Pallone Jr. and Bill Pascrell Jr., who requested that Conyers look into the Stryker Corp. deal with U.S. Attorney Christopher Christie, had extensive financial ties to the medical equipment industry and lobby. Combined, the two Jersey boys have raised tens of thousands from the industry. “Both men have put us in an awkward situation, and Conyers’ decision to pursue this matter further has put us in deeper,” says the aide. “Speaker Pelosi is concerned and has us monitoring the situation.”