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Medicare Vote Will Be Probed

From Associated Press

The Justice Department said Thursday it would review complaints from political watchdog groups that Republican House leaders tried to bribe Rep. Nick Smith (R-Mich.) to vote for a Medicare bill.

Smith voted against the bill despite what he described as threats against his son, Brad Smith, who is running for the House seat his father is vacating next year.

Nick Smith said his party’s leaders offered money for his son’s campaign if he voted for the bill and they threatened to support other GOP candidates for the seat if the congressman voted against the legislation.

“Bribes and special deals were offered to convince members to vote yes,” Smith wrote in a Nov. 23 newspaper column.

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Mark Glaze of the nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center said if the allegations were true, House members violated a federal law against bribing public officials.

The law allows people to verbally persuade lawmakers, Glaze said, but doesn’t allow them to offer something of value to change a vote. His group filed a complaint Wednesday, as did a separate group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics.

Justice Department spokesman Mark Corallo said the complaints would be reviewed.

House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert’s office has denied threats were made.

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Smith was among a number of conservative Republicans who opposed the $400-billion Medicare bill, which passed the House on Nov. 22 on a 220-215 vote.

The tally followed an unusually prolonged roll call during which reluctant members were targeted to switch from “no” to “yes.”

Smith said he was targeted by lobbyists and Republican leaders, and that Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy G. Thompson made a personal appeal for him to vote for it.


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