U.S. House to Citizens: "Ethics violations? No problem."
Stories such as this one illustrate why incumbent congressional Democrats don't deserve a dime of my support.
The Ethics Truce Lives On
By Melanie Sloan
From: TPMCafe Special Guests
Since 1998, there has been an ethics "truce" in the House of Representatives, under the terms of which no member will file an ethics complaint against another member. Because outsiders are prohibited from filing complaints with the House ethics committee, this has effectively shut down the ethics process. In 2004, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) prepared an ethics complaint against former Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX). In spite of DeLay's long history of ethics abuses, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi was adamantly opposed to the filing of such a complaint. Nonetheless, Rep. Chris Bell (D-TX), who had lost his seat when DeLay gerrymandered the Texas congressional map, filed the complaint anyway. As a result of that complaint, DeLay was admonished by a unanimous ethics committee and people around the country began to take notice of the ethics crisis in Congress.
Dec 08, 2005 -- 05:19:12 PM EST
Over a year later, despite the numerous ethics scandals surrounding DeLay and other Members of Congress, the truce remains intact. Although Democrats talk about the "culture of corruption" in Washington and the need for ethics committee investigations, they don't take the one step that guarantees such inquiries: filing ethics complaints.
CREW had an ethics complaint ready to file against former Rep. and now convicted felon Duke Cunningham (R-CA) since July and we've had one ready to go against Bob Ney (R-OH) - the likeliest candidate to be the next indicted Member of Congress -- since February, but no House member was or has been willing to file either complaint.
Congress has a constitutional obligation to police itself, but members are full of excuses as to why they can't or won't file ethics complaints. The truth is that the Democratic leadership doesn't allow anyone to file a complaint for fear of retaliation, not exactly a profile in courage.
Congressional inaction on ethics has forced the Department of Justice to criminally investigate conduct once left to the jurisdiction of the ethics committees. It is abundantly clear that the House leadership - both Democratic and Republican - will take ethics seriously only when we, as citizens and voters, force them to.