Bringing to an end its 14-month investigation, the Senate Ethics Committee rebuked evangelical Sen. Mark Hatfield (R-Oreg.) late in August for “improper conduct” in his finances. In its final report, the committee listed 13 gifts the senator had accepted and failed to report, including thousands of dollars’ worth of art, travel expenses, and home improvements.

Although the rebuke is considered a serious action, the committee stopped short of imposing more severe penalties, such as issuing a full Senate censure and stripping him of his committee responsibilities.

Hatfield, a cofounder of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability, accepted the committee’s report without dispute. “My mistakes were many, and my omissions were serious,” he said in a statement to the Senate. “There is no one but myself to blame.”

Boy Scouts Boycott

Fourteen members of Congress have joined several profamily groups in calling for a boycott of businesses that are exerting pressure on the Boy Scouts to hire homosexuals and take belief in God out of their oath. “We believe in freedom of association, and we believe in freedom of religion,” said Rep. Dan Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) at a Capitol Hill press conference called to announce the boycott against businesses that include Levi Strauss Corporation, Wells Fargo, Bank of America, and First Interstate Bank. The corporations have joined the United Way in withholding donations to the Boy Scouts to protest the nonprofit group’s refusal to appoint gay scoutmasters.

“Trying to force [the Boy Scouts] to lower their moral standards … is nothing more than a corporate mugging,” Rohrabacher said at the press conference, which was interrupted by gay activists.

Unfinished Business

Members of Congress will no doubt be preoccupied this fall with the coming elections, but key pieces of legislation await action, including several abortion-related measures. Congress is trying yet again to lift the Bush administration’s Title 10 regulations that forbid federally funded family-planning clinics to counsel and refer for abortions. The Senate is expected to approve the measure, which has already cleared the House. President Bush has pledged to veto the bill, as he did in April. Action may also be ahead on a bill that attempts to lift the administration’s ban on the use of fetal tissue obtained from abortions in federally funded medical research.

One abortion standoff that may not be resolved before the election is the “Freedom of Choice Act” (FOCA), which forbids any state to pass restrictions on abortion. The bill, which had been on a fast track through Congress, came to a screeching halt in August as the Democratic leadership in both houses postponed key hearings. At press time, it remained unclear whether FOCA would get moving again before the election. “Clinton and Gore are apparently trying to shelve the bill because they feel that a congressional debate will reveal what an extreme bill they’ve endorsed,” said the National Right to Life’s Doug Johnson.

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