Saturday, January 24, 2009

Office of Congressional Ethics Cranks Up


This blog hasn't been shy about roasting Nancy Pelosi when we've felt she has let down the American people. Her lovely daughter once growled at me for dubbing her mother "Rep. Off the Table." On the other hand, to say that Ms. Pelosi has been a better Speaker than Denny Hastert or Newt Gingrich is so obvious that it's almost silly. In fact, Nancy Pelosi, warts and all, has been a tremendous Speaker, one of the very best in history. Perfect? Far from it. But she has managed to hold together a fractious Democratic caucus filled with reactionary Blue Dogs while surrounded by savage lieutenants eager for her demise and working with the most venal president to ever inhabit the White House.

And one of the accomplishments I have been most impressed with isn't something that has gotten much coverage in the media, the Office of Congressional Ethics she shoved down her colleagues' throats, which met for the first time yesterday. If you hang around this site much, you may have heard me carping about how members of Congress make their own rules-- loopholes and all-- and that these rules are the fount of Washington's much underrated Culture of Corruption. It took her months of bitter fighting inside her own caucus-- imagine how corrupt hacks like Emanuel, Hoyer and Rangel felt about outsiders they couldn't control investigating them-- and then nuclear war with the hysterical Republicans. Basically Pelosi's bill allows private citizens (non-members) to review allegations against members for the first time in House history. Long overdue, too.

The Office of Congressional Ethics is a first step-- albeit a small and tentative one-- to take the policing of these crooks out of their own hands. Leo Wise was hired as Staff Director and Chief Counsel in November and he said the office has been getting plenty of complaints about members of Congress and staffers. When they met yesterday all six members were there: former Rep. David Skaggs (D-CO), the board’s chairman, Rep. Porter Goss (R-FL), the co-chairman, former Rep. Yvonne Brathwaite Burke (D-CA), former Rep. Karan English (D-AZ), former House Chief Administrative Officer Jay Eagan and Allison Hayward, a onetime chief of staff to Bradley Smith, a Republican-appointed former chairman of the Federal Election Commission. Former Rep. Bill Frenzel (D-MN), who will serve as an alternate appointee, was also present.
According to the rules adopted Friday, The OCE will conduct preliminary reviews of ethics complaints and make recommendations to the full committee for further investigation and action. It can take complaints from the public and other members of Congress and staff but also can initiate reviews on its own. Some ethics watchdogs criticized its lack of subpoena power last year during the debate over its creation.

Wise also explained that the office won’t be going back to investigate every allegation the ethics committee has not acted on in the past 10 years. It will consider only activity that happened after March of last year.

A number of watchdog groups and good government groups weighed in with their responses to the OCE rules and code of conduct.

Meredith McGehee, the policy director of the Campaign Legal Center, as well as Melanie Sloan of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, expressed deep concerns about making sure members of the board and staff are free of partisan biases or any perceptions of bias. Both said they thought none of the board members should make political donations. If they have made such donations in the past for a member or an opponent to a member who is under investigation, McGehee and Sloan said the board members should recuse themselves from any review of that member.

This was a very big issue during the [Rep. Tom] DeLay investigation,” Sloan said. “Members of the ethics committee had given to his legal defense fund.”

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At 8:46 PM, Blogger Dr. Know said...

Long overdue. Throw in a little campaign finance reform and you've got the makings of a good brew.

At 5:54 AM, Blogger Koshem Bos said...

You have little or no proof that Emmanuel and Hoyer are corrupt. We may not like their politics, but there is no need to cross the line and start to behave like a Republican.

At 6:32 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The big Questions is will the OCE investigate California Congressman R-CA Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield for his involvement and taking of monies from owners and developers of the troubled Santa Margarita Ranch. McCarthy took monies from bankrupt RW Hertel & Sons, Inc and partner Robert JS Fowler who currently has massive tax liens on him. Both these developers and co-owners of the project have defaulted on millions of FDIC Loans and funneled monies to McCarthy to get the ranch deal passed. Quid quo pro.

At 7:36 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Do NOT count on the OCE to do anything to any illegal matter, it is another bought and paid for group of do nothing political hacks. They are just more smoke and mirrors on the tax payers dough...

They are worthless when it comes to stopping corruption and bribes in Washington, DC just more of the same old good ole boys enjoying cover ups so count the OCE out.

At 4:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

OCE is another Joke on the Hill they are powerless, clueless and have no idea what to do when corruption lands on there door, do not expect a thing from the OCE worthless, according to one FBI in the know this new OCE is a weak link in the real investigative process too many leaks and not one bit of integrity to investigate anything.

At 7:21 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

OCE, is just another wasted government agency, they have NO authority to issue subpoenas no power of indictments and do what they are told by the powers at higher levels. Both the OCE and its members are wasting our tax dollars and time as a front to make it appear they are a New Ethical investigative body they are not. If you have or know of political wrong doing or corruption tell the FBI not OCE.


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