PENNSYLVANIA REP. SHUSTER RETIRING

PHILADELPHIA -- Rep. Bud Shuster, a 14-term congressman rebuked by the House ethics committee in the fall for allegedly accepting improper gifts and favoring a lobbyist, said Thursday he will retire at the end of January, according to a wire service.

Shuster, R-Pa., cited recent "health scares" and the realization he had "reached the pinnacle of my congressional career" with recently passed transportation legislation. He said he would leave office Jan. 31.

"In recent months, both my wife, Patty, and I have been in hospitals with different health scares. While we remain optimistic, these experiences have caused me to re-evaluate my priorities and responsibilities," Shuster, 68, said in a statement. He did not elaborate on his health problems.

Shuster has represented the heavily Republican 9th District in south-central Pennsylvania since 1973 and was re-elected in November without opposition.

The announcement came the day after Shuster and other members of Congress were sworn in for the 2001-2003 term. He said he wouldn't wait until the end of his term to retire because he doesn't want to become a lame duck.

"By retiring at the end of this month, effective January 31st, the governor can call a special election to quickly elect my successor for the new Congress," Shuster said in the statement.

In December, Shuster finished his sixth and last year as chairman of the Transportation & Infrastructure Committee.

When Shuster departs the House, it will have a breakdown of 220 Republicans to 211 Democrats, plus two independents evenly divided between the parties and two vacancies.

In September, the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct criticized Shuster for "serious official misconduct" but spared him further penalty.

The committee found Shuster engaged in a "pattern and practice" of allowing his former top aide Ann M. Eppard -- who lobbies for companies with business before the transportation panel -- to appear before him in his official capacity in the year after her resignation from his staff. This "created the appearance that his official decisions might have been improperly affected," the committee report said.

Shuster said he negotiated an agreement with the ethics committee just to end the investigation and admitted no wrongdoing.

Eppard was fined $5,000 in 1998 after pleading guilty to a federal misdemeanor charge of receiving improper compensation. She had been accused of illegally receiving money and gifts to intercede with Shuster and government agencies on behalf of companies threatened by the Big Dig, Boston's massive federal highway project.

The other vacancy in the new Congress is the California seat held by Rep. Julian Dixon, who died Dec. 8, just a month after he was elected to a 12th term. A special election is expected to be held in that heavily Democratic district in April or June.

Shuster's chief of staff, Darrell Wilson, said Shuster was more concerned about his wife's health than his own.

"It's a personal decision," Wilson told The Associated Press on Thursday. "He struggled with it for a long time. It took him a year to make."

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January 5, 2001


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2001 Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers