Monday, August 02, 2010

Ethics 101

Jay Bookman rightly points out that the investigations of Reps. Rangel and Waters by the House Ethics Committee demonstrate considerable progress in cleaning up Congress. And not only is the Ethics Committee working this, but the Democratic leadership looks to be taking a hard line.

However, the best way to gauge the current state of congressional ethics is not the behavior of individual members, but whether their colleagues are willing to tolerate that misbehavior. The Rangel and Waters cases offer evidence of a system that is working and of a House that is far more willing than in the past to police its own.


This is very important, especially considering the Hastert-DeLay-Republican behavior in the past. At the very least, to play politics with this thing would require Democratic foot-dragging until after November's election.

Instead, the Ethics Committee forged on with their investigations while the Democratic leadership made moves that were politically risky, against two powerful congressional office-holders with serious clout; office holders who raise considerable money for the reelection of their more electorally vulnerable Party members.

And yet, the word from right-wing radio, broadcast and internet is that these very investigations serve as proof that Peloi lets this Congress get away with just as much as Hastert & DeLay did.

Maybe that's why the last GOP congresses were so bad. If no one sees the ethical violations, they didn't happen!

Maybe one of our problems in this country is that too many people don't understand that enforcing the rules requires process and investigation, not over-politicization and knee-jerk reaction. Especially if you're going after some of the most well-entrenched, highest-profile folks.

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5 comments:

DADvocate said...

And not only is the Ethics Committee working this, but the Democratic leadership looks to be taking a hard line.

Weren't they going to do this after the 2006 elections? Remember the Culture of Corruption they were going to clean up? THREE YEARS AGO!

There's no sincerity here. The only reason any action is being taken is the impending, looming losses coming this November. Just throwing a few guys under the bus hoping to get a few more votes.

Cousin Pat from Georgia said...

See, I don't buy that. They only got the votes to change the rules in 2008 that made this possible. After that, investigations take time, especially if you want to do it right, and you're going after big fish.

Rangel and Waters weren't the only ethics investigations this whole time, after all.

Politically, they risk far more from investigating these two both from national exposure and the loss of internal support. That is a lot of campaign money to throw away on the eve of this election to go after two undefeatable members of Congress.

DADvocate said...

Politically, they risk far more from investigating these two both from national exposure and the loss of internal support.

You're probably right about this. Both had good chances of being re-elected, or at least Rangel did. We need to vote about 75% of them out to really clean up the place.

Dante said...

The only thing I have been happy with in Pelosi's tenure as Speaker is how she is handling this situation. The Ethics Committee is the only thing in the entirety of our government she isn't actively trying to get her hands in.

"At the very least, to play politics with this thing would require Democratic foot-dragging until after November's election."

Pat, I've said this before but you never seem to believe me: Don't drink your own Kool-Aid. Of course they're playing politics with this. The Democrats are politically in trouble. Bad trouble. They need something to show they give a shit about the American people. All of the backroom deals that look less and less like legislation for us and more like legislation for their lobbyists have taken their toll on the party of the "people." Why not sacrifice a few members loved locally but loathed nationally? It's not like the Republicans are walking away with Rangel's or Water's districts any time soon. It's fortunate that House leadership is on the right side of this spectacle, but never doubt a politician's motives.

The Republicans are being stupid here because they're playing into the other side. They're blindly spinning the corruption angle for short term political points. There's nothing wrong with that, but the logical conclusion of the Ethics Committee investigations will be to throw it back in the face of the Republicans. Then Republicans are going to have to hope that they can spin the ethics violations uncovered harder than Democrats can spin the cleaning up House angle.

And Pat, you're kind of screwing things up for the Democrats by blasting away this early. I'm sure they're going to wait for the convictions before opening fire.

Cousin Pat from Georgia said...

@ DADV: How I wish, but throwing out 75% of Congress would only result in 75% new shenanigans. People have to get involved in their local parties, and stop/replace the shenanigan candidates while they're still on county councils across the land.

@ Dante: This is lose/lose politically for the Democrats in a lose/lose year. That's not Kool-Aid, that's just the way it is. Selling an altruistic Ethics Committee wins zero votes anywhere.

I could see some internal politics going on - maybe someone's tired of Rangel's shenanigans, maybe he squashed somebody's important legislation - but there is no way this does anything other than hurt them in November. Rangel and Waters send hundreds of thousands of dollars to candidates in more vulnerable districts.