The Washington Independent
The Washington Independent

Anatomy of an Ethics Leak

Last updated: 07/31/2020 08:00 | 10/30/2009 07:35
Iram Martins

The news that “dozens” of House lawmakers are under scrutiny by ethics investigators — reported last night by The Washington Post — will likely stir a small storm in Washington, particularly on an otherwise quiet Friday when Congress is out of town.

Yet few details contained in the leaked document are new (which makes some sense because it was prepared in July). There’s the investigation, for example, of lawmakers tied to PMA Group, the now-defunct lobbying shop that funneled millions of dollars of campaign contributions to members of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense, which in turn directed more than $200 million to PMA clients. There’s the ongoing look at the personal finances of Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.), the Ways and Means Chairman whose failure to include hundreds of thousands of dollars on financial disclosure forms has led to calls for his removal atop the committee. And there’s the case of Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), the House Financial Services member who organized a meeting between Treasury officials and the head of a bank in which her husband was heavily invested.

Yet these cases are all at least six months old. The fact that the ethics panel hasn’t reached any conclusions seems to reveal what many already suspect: that a system of having Congress investigate Congress is, at best, a conflict of interest, and, at worst, a stage show run by folks with no real appetite to punish colleagues.

The Post is quick to point out that the ethics panel isn’t exactly aggressive when it comes to discipline.

Ethics committee investigations are not uncommon. Most result in private letters that either exonerate or reprimand a member. In some rare instances, the censure is more severe.

No one knows this better than Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, the tireless watchdog group that keeps an eye on ethics cases in Congress. Reacting to the Post story, CREW shot out a statement this morning, effectively accusing the ethics panel of being a paper tiger.

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.

For its part, the ethics panel shot out a statement that seems intended more to ease the concerns of lawmakers listed in the leaked document than it does to convince the public that investigators are serious about punishing congressional wrongdoing.

At any one time, the Committee has dozens of matters regarding Members, Officers, and employees before it, including both investigations and requests for advice regarding House rules, financial disclosure, and travel, among other issues. No inference to any misconduct can be made from the fact that a matter is simply before the Committee.

Replace “misconduct” with “looming punishment” and this statement would probably be closer to the truth.

Iram Martins | Personal trainer. Aspiring sommelier. Brunch critic who works part-time. When I'm not competing, you'll find me at dog beaches with my black lab or sipping drinks at the best bars in town. I like to fly a lot.


Rep. Paul Ryan to deliver SOTU response

Chairman of the House Budget Committee Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) will deliver the Republican response to the State of the Union Tuesday, according to Mike Allen

Rep. Parker Griffith (R-Ala.)

One of the most conservative Democrats in the House -- a freshman who said he couldn’t support Nancy Pelosi again -- is going to switch over to the GOP. Josh

Rep. Paulsen allies with medical device industry to relax FDA oversight

Source: Flickr; Republicanconference ( On the heels of the Minnesota Independent story last week about U.S. Rep. Erik Paulsen’s cozy financial relationship with the medical device industry, the New York Times reported Tuesday that some health professionals are alarmed by Paulsen’s push to relax Food and Drug Administration (FDA) oversight

Rep. Patrick McHenry: Please, Conservatives, Fill Out Your Census Forms!

The conservative congressman from North Carolina, a constant critic of the census -- one of the people who sounded the alarm about politicization when the

Rep. Paulsen touts balanced budget constitutional amendment

In a post for the conservative blog True North , U.S. Rep

Rep. Perlmutter criticizes House measure that would eliminate 800K federal jobs

Congressman Ed Perlmutter today issued a scathing statement criticizing the House of Representatives for passing a spending bill that could put nearly a million federal employees out of work. The Colorado delegation voted strictly on party lines, with all four Republicans voting in favor of the bill and the three Democrats voting in opposition. Perlmutter’s statement: “My number one priority is to get people back to work because that’s the best thing we can do to pay our debt and move forward toward economic stability

Rep. Peace, ACLU seek investigation of soldier’s allegations of racial discrimination in Afghanistan

Both Rep. Steve Pearce (R-NM) and the American Civil Liberties Union agree: There needs to be an investigation into Spc.

Rep. Paulsen, Karl Rove the latest to get ‘glittered’

Rep. Erik Paulsen and former Bush staffer Karl Rove were both showered with glitter at the Midwest Leadership Conference Friday

Rep. Pete Hoekstra Surging in Michigan Gubernatorial Bid

The ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee -- you couldn’t flip on a TV without seeing him in the aftermath of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab’s botched

School of Hock

A growing number of college grads are defaulting on their student loans as the economy worsens.

© Copyright 2021 The Washington Independent All Rights Reserved

Terms & Privacy |