Scores of House members are likely to stampede the ethics committee this week to check the accuracy of the bank records used to brand them as writers of rubber checks.
Rep. Jim Hansen, R-Utah, ranking GOP member of the ethics panel, said the committee kept its doors open this weekend so members could review their data."This is going to be the most popular spot on Capitol Hill for the next month or two," Hansen said.
Across the country this weekend, member after member attributed rubber checks to the sloppy, slipshod bookkeeping of the House bank that they said rarely bothered to notify them when there were insufficient funds to cover a check. The checks didn't actually bounce - the bank covered the overdrafts with money from overall deposits.
Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin, D-Md., another member of the panel which sifted through the banks's records, called them "hopelessly inaccurate." Cardin and Hansen spoke Sunday on ABC-TV's "This Week With David Brinkley."
"A complete mess," agreed Rep. Fred Grandy, R-Iowa, another member of the committee.
The panel has identified 296 current House members and 59 former ones as cashing at least one bad check. It has focused on 24 current and former members as "worst abusers" - those who wrote so many bad checks their next monthly paycheck would not cover the deficit at least eight of the 39 months covered by the investigation.
The Associated Press learned the names of 22 of the top 24 from congressional sources on Saturday, and Rep. Mickey Edwards, R-Okla., added his own name to the list Sunday.
"What really bothers me is that if I'm guilty, I don't mind 'fessing up to it," said former Rep. Tommy Robinson of Arkansas, identified by congressional sources as the bank's worst abuser, writing 996 bad checks.
But Robinson, whose initial reaction was complete disbelief, said he was never told of any problem with his bank account during his six years in the House.
"I just (have the) suspicion from the bottom of my heart that money from one congressman's account was used to pay someone else's hot check," said Robinson, who was elected to Congress as a Democrat but who became a Republican in 1989. He said he would ask for the records on which the list was based.
The check-writing scandal shows that the House is corrupt because it has been under uninterupted Democratic control for 38 years, said House Minority Whip Newt Gingrich.
Gingrich said the speaker's office is "totally mismanaging the corruption of the House" and is "totally mismanaging the institutional crises" within the House.
In response, Speaker Tom Foley insisted that his office can clean up the scandal and put into place a bank that will not let this type of thing happen.
"I don't, in any way, condone what happened in the House bank. But we're going to move forward to correct any management or other serious problems in the housekeeping of the House of Representatives, including the House bank," he said.
Many House members caught up in the banking mess said the data was wrong.
An aide to Rep. Bob Mrazek, D-N.Y., No. 2 on the list supplied by the congressional sources, conceded the bank had to hold some of Mrazek's checks.
But "there is no way the number 972 is true," said Administrative Assistant Thomas Barry. Since the bank never told Mrazek there was a problem, he "had no indication there was anything wrong," Barry said.
Another New Yorker, Democrat Jim Scheuer, said he simply didn't write the 169 bad checks the ethics committee says he did.
In Texas, former Speaker Jim Wright, who the sources said wrote 139 bad checks totaling $37,000, said: "That has to be an inaccuracy. I never wrote that many checks."