Sen. Mel Martinez acknowledged today that an anonymous memo listing political talking points on the Terri Schiavo case that was passed on the Senate floor came from his office.
The memo was first reported March 18 by ABC News' Linda Douglass on "World News Tonight with Peter Jennings." It referred to the battle over the removal of the feeding tube from Schiavo, a severely brain-damaged Florida woman, as "a great political issue."
Martinez, R-Fla., said the memo had been written by an aide in his office, and he said he had accepted the aide's resignation.
"It is with profound disappointment and regret that I learned today that a senior member of my staff was unilaterally responsible for this document," Martinez said in a statement.
He did not name the aide, but ABC News has confirmed it was Brian Darling, the senator's legal counsel.
"This type of behavior and sentiment will not be tolerated in my office," Martinez said.
The memo was produced as lawmakers were drafting legislation to direct the federal courts to review the Schiavo case. Congress passed the bill and President Bush signed it. But despite this legislation and many 11th-hour legal appeals by Schiavo's parents the courts refused to intervene. Schaivo, 41, died March 31, 13 days after her feeding tube was removed.
Martinez said he had no prior knowledge of the document. "Until this afternoon, I had never seen it and had no idea a copy of it had ever been in my possession," he said.
Democrats had maintained the memo was proof that Republicans were seeking a political edge in the fight between Schiavo's husband, Michael, and her parents over removing her feeding tube. Republican leadership denied producing the document, leading some conservative bloggers to question whether it ever existed.
Marttinez's statement confirmed that it did exist, and that he himself had handed the document to Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, mistakenly thinking it was background information on the bill.
This is an exact, full copy of the document obtained exclusively by ABC News and first reported March 18:
S. 529, The Incapacitated Person's Legal Protection Act
Teri (sic) Schiavo is subject to an order that her feeding tubes will be disconnected on March 18, 2005 at 1p.m.
The Senate needs to act this week, before the Budget Act is pending business, or Terri's family will not have a remedy in federal court.
This is an important moral issue and the pro-life base will be excited that the Senate is debating this important issue.
This is a great political issue, because Senator Nelson of Florida has already refused to become a cosponsor and this is a tough issue for Democrats.
The bill is very limited and defines custody as "those parties authorized or directed by a court order to withdraw or withhold food, fluids, or medical treatment."
There is an exemption for a proceeding "which no party disputes, and the court finds, that the incapacitated person while having capacity, had executed a written advance directive valid under applicably law that clearly authorized the withholding or or (sic) withdrawl (sic) of food and fluids or medical treatment in the applicable circumstances."
Incapacitated persons are defined as those "presently incapable of making relevant decisions concerning the provision, withholding or withdrawl (sic) of food fluids or medical treatment under applicable state law."
This legislation ensures that individuals like Terri Schiavo are guaranteed the same legal protections as convicted murderers like Ted Bundy.