Friday, October 30, 2009

Ethics Probe of 33 Lawmakers A Yawner

The Washington Post breathlessly tells us today that 33 lawmakers are being investigated for questionable conduct that includes defense lobbying and corporate influence peddling.

Granted, this is a legitimate story in Washington. But for the rest of the nation, it most likely will produce a collective yawn. "What else is new?" they might ask.

The report was prepared in July. It was accidentally leaked by a junior staffer who used software from his home computer known as "peer-to-peer" technology. "(It) has previously caused inadvertent breaches of sensitive financial, defense-related and personal data from government and commercial networks," the Post reported.

The breach scared the crap out of House committee members. Zoe Lofgen (D-Calif.) , its chairperson, interrupted a series of House votes to alert lawmakers, cautioning that some of the activities are preliminary and not a conclusive sign of inappropriate behavior. "No inference should be made as to any member," she said.

Rep. Jo Bonner (Ala.), the committee's ranking Republican, said the breach was an isolated incident. Right. The junior staffer was fired.

The Post explained:

The ethics committee is one of the most secretive panels in Congress, and its members and staff members sign oaths not to disclose any activities related to its past or present investigations. Watchdog groups have accused the committee of not actively pursuing inquiries; the newly disclosed document indicates the panel is conducting far more investigations than it had revealed...

The 22-page "Committee on Standards Weekly Summary Report" gives brief summaries of ethics panel investigations of the conduct of 19 lawmakers and a few staff members. It also outlines the work of the new Office of Congressional Ethics, a quasi-independent body that initiates investigations and provides recommendations to the ethics committee. The document indicated that the office was reviewing the activities of 14 other lawmakers. Some were under review by both ethics bodies.

Most of the inquiries already have been made public.

Lawmakers named in the July report include House Ways and Means Chairman Charles B. Rangel (D-N.Y.); Rep. Maxine Waters, (D-Calif.) a high-ranking member of the House Financial Services Committee in addition to Reps, Murtha (D-Pa.), Moran (D-Va.), Visclosky (D-Ind.), Shuler (D-N.C.), Graves (R-Mo.), Harman (D-Calif.), Barton, (R-Tex.), Kaptur (D-Ohio),Young (R-Fla.), Tiahrt (R-Kan.), Nunes (R-Calif.) and Mack (R-Calif.).

I am suspect of any organization that investigates itself. It's all and well that the investigative process is kept secret. But the findings should be a matter of public record, not as they are now which are leaked or by exonerated lawmakers showing their "Get Out Of Jail" free card.

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