WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Democratic lawmakers invoked memories of Watergate
on Wednesday as they
denounced the destruction of documents by Texas police in a search last week for runaway Texas state legislators.
"Not since Richard Nixon have we seen such a dangerous abuse of federal resources for political purposes or such a
dangerous cover-up," said Rep. Martin Frost, dean of the Texas Democratic congressional delegation.
A U.S. Department of Homeland Security agency said last week that Texas
police had misled it in seeking help
to find a plane carrying some of the missing politicians. Democrats in the U.S. Congress demanded an investigation.
On Wednesday, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported Texas police destroyed
documents concerning their search for
more than 50 Democratic lawmakers who fled to Oklahoma to block a redistricting plan designed to give Republicans more
seats in the Congress.
The absence of the Democrats meant there was no quorum in the Texas legislature,
preventing any votes. Legislature
rules allow the speaker to order the arrest of members trying to thwart a quorum.
The Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) said it was required by privacy
protection measures to destroy the materials
in question. "This was not a criminal matter, so we could not legally maintain that information," a statement said.
But Democrats said they wanted to know if any state or federal laws had
been broken, and asked Homeland Security
Secretary Tom Ridge to investigate.
Democrats in the U.S. Congress have charged that the U.S. Department of
Homeland Security was inappropriately
employed in the hunt and blasted Republicans for calling in law enforcement officials in an effort to settle a partisan
In a letter to the Department of Homeland Security's office of inspector
general, Democrats renewed their call for release
of a tape recording of telephone conversations between the DPS and a department agency.
"One lesson of Watergate should be to release all tapes quickly, not destroy
them immediately," said Rep. Lloyd Doggett, a
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