WASHINGTON, DC - March 6 - Today, it was reported that once again the House independent ethics office legislation will not be brought to the floor of the House of Representatives. While Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) does not support the current legislation – without subpoena power or the ability to field complaints from outsiders it is simply a new layer of bureaucracy – the endless delay in addressing the abominable, unethical activities in the House is at the very least disheartening.
A timeline for the independent ethics office follows the stories below.
The results of the 2006 election clearly showed that ethics do matter to the American public. The inability of congressional leaders to address ethics could affect this year’s outcome on both sides of the aisle.
As reported by CNN on November 8, 2006, Corruption named as key issue by voters in exit polls:
Exit poll interviewers, working on behalf of the Associated Press, CNN and four other networks, were stationed at about 1,000 precincts around the country Tuesday, asking voters to describe themselves and their opinions on important issues...Asked which issues were extremely important to their vote, 42 percent said corruption and ethics; 40 percent, terrorism; 39 percent, the economy; 37 percent, Iraq; 36 percent, values; and 29 percent, illegal immigration.
On November 8, 2006 A National Republican Campaign Committee e-mail obtained by National Journal reported:
The Scandal Factor Was Costly. We lost several seats by the self-inflicted route: AZ-05, CA-11, FL-16, NY-20, NC-11, OH-18, PA-07, PA-10, and TX-22. Note that with the exception of PA-07, all of these are fairly reliable Republican districts.
As reported by the Houston Chronicle on November 9, 2006:
"Every member or district that had an issue related to the professional conduct of that member switched and became Democratic," Rep. Rahm Emanuel of Illinois, who headed the Democrats' congressional campaign efforts, said today. "That was eight seats — half of the 15 you needed."
Former Democratic National Chairman Terry McAuliffe said Republicans miscalculated in deciding not to respond to the scandals by passing ethics legislation.
House Republicans blocked efforts to ban lobbyist-paid meals and to prevent lawmakers from accepting cut-rate charter flights on corporate jets. The only measure to be enacted identified lawmakers who obtained funding for local projects known as earmarks. That rule expires when Congress adjourns in January.
As reported by the Associated Press on December 22, 2006:
Asked about the Democratic takeover of the House and Senate in the midterm elections, Mrs. Cheney said scandals cost the GOP many votes.
"I think Iraq was part of it, but I also think that you had some extraordinary ethical failures," she said. "They were bipartisan, but I do think the Republicans paid a great price for that." She noted the cases of former Republican congressman Mark Foley, who resigned over sexually explicit messages sent to male pages, and Randy Cunningham, who pleaded guilty to accepting bribes from defense contractors.
"I think those exacted a terrible price," she said.
As reported by Robert Novak on July 30, 2007:
Karl Rove, President Bush's political lieutenant, told a closed-door meeting of 2008 Republican House candidates and their aides Tuesday that it was less the war in Iraq than corruption in Congress that caused their party's defeat in the 2006 elections.
Rove's clear advice to the candidates is to distance themselves from the culture of Washington. Specifically, Republican candidates are urged to make clear they have no connection with disgraced congressmen such as Duke Cunningham and Mark Foley. In effect, Rove was rebutting the complaint inside the party that Bush is responsible for Republican miseries by invading Iraq.
January 31, 2007: Speaker Pelosi (D-CA) and Minority Leader Boehner (R-OH) appoint ethics task force, chaired by Reps. Mike Capuano (D-MA) and Lamar Smith (R-TX). Speaker Pelosi sets a deadline of May 1, 2007 for the recommendations of the task force. (The Politico)
May 1, 2007: May 1 comes and goes with no recommendations from the task force.
July 3, 2007: Rep. Capuano tells The Hill: “I haven’t had a timeline from day one.” (The Hill)
December 19, 2007: Recommendations finally released by Rep. Capuano, which are not supported by the Republican members of the task force. (Rep. Capuano Press Release)
February 27, 2008: Ethics bill vote is scheduled for February 28 (The Hill), but postponed at the last minute by House Democratic Leaders. (The Politico)
March 3, 2008: Rep. Capuano proposes series of amendments to bill, again without the support of the Republican members of the task force (Rep. Capuano “Dear Colleague” Letter), and another vote is scheduled for March 6. (The Hill)
March 5, 2007: For the second time, House Democratic Leaders postpone the vote on the ethics bill. (Roll Call)