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Jewish World Review
June 15, 2010
/ 3 Tamuz 5770
Pelosi: Ethics Are Overrated
John H. Fund
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is sending private signals that she is willing to support watering down the powers of the Office of Congressional Ethics, the panel she and fellow Democrats created last year to serve as a new watchdog on congressional misconduct.
Susan Crabtree of The Hill newspaper reports on a meeting late in May between members of the Congressional Black Caucus and Speaker Pelosi. The Speaker heard a litany of complaints about the OCE's aggressiveness and its public release of documents that reflected badly on the reputations of members. Both Ms. Pelosi and House Whip Jim Clyburn indicated sympathy with the complaints, agreeing that the ethics office's operations had resulted in unintended consequences.
Shortly after the meeting, Ohio Democrat Marcia Fudge and 19 other members of the Congressional Black Caucus introduced legislation to reduce the office's powers to investigate wrongdoing. No one expects the legislation to go anywhere, but it may be a stalking horse for an attempt to change the House's rules late this year should Democrats retain control after November.
The Office of Congressional Ethics, which is largely composed of former members, was created in 2008 by Democrats who vowed to establish a more ethical Congress. As Speaker Pelosi said at the time: "We have come here to drain the swamp. The New Direction Congress will for the first time open the ethics process up to the participation of our fellow citizens, which will make this institution more accountable." Now it would appear that the OCE has become an inconvenience or threat to some Members.
Rep. Artur Davis, an Alabama Democrat who is leaving Congress at the end of this year, is one member of the Congressional Black Caucus who thinks his colleagues are making a mistake. "There was a problem a few years ago with corruption in this institution, and that's why [the OCE] was created," he says. "I would hate to see the leadership walk away from this commitment."
Other Members are even more pointed in their criticism of those who would water down the powers of the OCE.
"The cynical among us would assert that the people crying the loudest have the most to hide," Rep. Tim Johnson, an Illinois Republican, said in a statement. "Perhaps the OCE is a victim of its own success. If it weren't making a difference, we wouldn't be having this conversation."
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JWR contributor John H. Fund is author, most recently, of "Stealing Elections: How Voter Fraud Threatens Our Democracy". (Click HERE to purchase. Sales help fund JWR.)
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© 2006, John H. Fund