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House Ethics Committee
Update: February 27, 2010: Ethics Committee cleared 7 lawmakers--Norm Dicks (D-Washington), Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio), James P. Moran (D-Virginia), Todd Tiahrt (R-Kansas), Peter Visclosky (D-Indiana), C.W. Bill Young (R-Florida), and the late John Murtha (D-Pennsylvania)--who steered hundreds of millions of dollars, mostly in no-contract bids, to companies who donated large amounts of campaign funds.
Reason? In a 305-page report, the Ethics Committee said it's okay for lawmakers to raise campaign funds from companies who are beneficiaries of earmarks, so long as the deciding factors in granting the earmarks are "criteria independent" of the contributions. "Simply because a member sponsors an earmark for an entity that also happens to be a campaign contributor does not, on these two facts alone, support a claim that a member's action are being influenced by campaign contributions."
Check out the final report on the Mark Foley scandal:
From left to right: Democrats, chairwoman Stephanie Tubbs-Jones (Ohio); Gene Green (Tex.); Lucille Roybal-Allard (Calif.); Michael Doyle (Penn.); William Delahunt (Mass.); Republicans Doc Hastings (Wash.); Jo Bonner (Alabama); Gresham Barrett (S.C.); John Kline (Minn.), Michael McCaul (Texas). Ranking Democrat, Allan Mollohan was forced to resign in May, 2006.
Meet the House Ethics Committee, or as it's officially called, the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct. You could check out its website at www.house.gov/ethics
Committee hasn't exactly been breaking into a sweat lately. The 109th Congress first met in January 2005. Fifteen months later, the House Ethics Committee decided to meet for the first time . . . despite having a potentially full plate with DeLay, Jefferson, and others.
The Washington Post editorialized about the Do-Nothing Ethics Committee: "Nap Time for Ethics" was the name of the feature:
"Busy times for the House ethics committee, right?
"If you answered yes, you don't know this ethics committee. Fifteen months into the 109th Congress, the panel managed on Thursday to have its first real meeting of the Congress. Members gathered behind closed doors for six hours and . . . drumroll . . . agreed to continue a previously launched investigation of Rep. Jim McDermott for distributing an intercepted cell phone call between House leaders in 1996. That's all.
"This would be the same ethics committee whose chairman, Rep. Doc Hastings (R-Wash.), offered almost a year ago to name an investigative subcommittee to 'review various allegations concerning travel and other actions by Mr. DeLay.'
"Whatever the reason for the stalemate, the panel's inactivity in the face of scandal is itself scandalous. Certainly, it's important that the ethics committee not take actions that interfere with the criminal investigations and prosecutions that have been sprouting from the Abramoff affairs. But that doesn't mean it needs to be entirely inert, either."
Check out the allegations against Ethics Committee ranking minority member Alan Mollohan, who voluntarily stepped down on April 21, 2006.
Finally!! The Ethics Committee, after 16 months of doing nothing except bickering and partisan infighting, has decided, on May 17, 2006, to launch investigations into bribery allegations against Robert Ney and William Jefferson and to look into a separate inquiry in the widening scandal surrounding former member and BadBoy Duke Cunningham. The Committee says it would also have opened an investigation on the overseas travel of Tom DeLay, but since he's resigned, they won't pursue the matter. Convenient, no?
What's Congress doing about lobbying reform?
Update: July 24, 2008: The House leaders announced a new, independent Ethics Office, made up of former members of Congress and others. Their responsibility: to review cases and refer them to the House Ethics Committee, which in recent years has been both inactive and ineffective. The panel can only refer cases; it cannot mete out punishment or censure.
Update, Aug. 20, 2008: Chair of the Ethics Committee, Stephanie Tubbs-Jones, 58, of Ohio died of a brain hemorrhage.
Here are the members of this new committee:
David Skaggs (co-chair; former Democratic congressman from Colorado)
Port Goss (co-chair; former Republican congressman from Florida)
Yvonne Braithwaite Burke (former Democratic congresswoman from California)
Jay Eagen (former House Chief Administrative Officer)
Karan English (former Democratic congresswoman from Arizona)
Allison Hayward (George Mason U. law professor and former FEC chief of staff)
Source: "Nap Time for Ethics," Washington Post, April 1, 2006. Jonathan Weisman, "Ethics Panel Starts 3 Probes," Washington Post, May 18, 2006.