Rep. Jim McDermott is being sued by a Republican colleague who complains he leaked the contents of an illegally taped phone conversation.
Ohio Rep. John Boehner sued the Seattle Democrat on Monday over the revelations of a 1996 conversation in which House GOP leaders discussed strategy for settling Speaker Newt Gingrich’s ethics problems.
The U.S. District Court suit asks for statutory damages of about $30,000, plus punitive damages and attorneys’ fees.
Boehner said he would pursue the lawsuit until those involved take responsibility for their actions.
“This is obviously politically motivated, and I refuse to dignify it with a comment,” McDermott said in a written statement released by his office Monday evening.
Boehner was one of those involved in the phone call, which was recorded off a police scanner by a Florida couple, John and Alice Martin. They pleaded guilty last year to intentionally intercepting a wire communication.
The Martins have said they gave the tape of the phone call to McDermott, who was at that time the ranking Democrat on the House Ethics Committee.
The suit says McDermott intentionally “caused a copy” of the tape to be given to the New York Times, the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, and Roll Call, a newspaper that covers Congress.
McDermott eventually resigned from the Ethics Committee and federal prosecutors are investigating the unauthorized release of the recording.
Boehner has “been waiting patiently for the Justice Department to proceed with the criminal investigation,” said his attorney, Michael Carvin. “We decided to go ahead with the suit because it is apparent that this will not happen, or it at least is taking a very long time.”
McDermott’s lawyer, Frank Cicero, said the lawsuit was part of a political vendetta because of McDermott’s role in the Gingrich ethics investigation.
“That is clearly shown by the fact that Rep. Boehner has not sued the three newspapers,” Cicero said.