Congressional Ethics

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The Washington Post has a blockbuster story today based on a House ethics committee report the Post obtained after the document was accidentally made available on a file-sharing network. Dozens of House members are under investigation for ethics violations, according to the document. Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), a nonprofit which filed many of the initial ethics complaints against the members in question, rejoiced at the news that so many investigations were actually going on behind the scenes. But Melanie Sloan, CREW’s executive director, cautioned that most of these inquiries don’t result in any consequences for members:

[W]e were pleasantly surprised to learn the ethics committee is investigating so many members of Congress, but starting an investigation isn’t enough. The real question is whether any of the members under investigation will ever be held accountable for their conduct. The committee’s record on such matters is dismal. You have only to look back at the Mark Foley investigation—where all of America knew there was wrongdoing yet the committee found none—to be skeptical of the House ethics process. There’s not much reason to think anything has changed, but one can always hope.”

It will be interesting to look back at the Post report a year from now and see how many of the ethics’ committee’s investigations have actually amounted to anything.

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