Published on

Ethics Training for Congress? Dream On

In Washington, anyone can be blatantly unethical, as long as they don’t technically break laws.

Photo: Dan Mason/flickr/cc

Do you  — or does anyone — really need a book of rules and a three-hour briefing to do your job ethically?

If you’re a Congress critter, apparently so. For that’s what newly elected lawmakers have just received.

Nearly all those newcomers rode to victory on a tsunami of inherently corrupting corporate cash. Now they’re being instructed in a crash course on Capitol Hill ethics.

That is, they’re not learning how to be ethical, exactly — just how to avoid ending up being investigated, indicted, or thrown in jail.

You see, in Washington’s rarefied air, anyone can be blatantly unethical, as long as they don’t technically break laws. It’s a fine line, so this latest class of special-interest lawmakers proved eager learners.

But in practice, even actually crossing that line is no barrier to congressional service.


Never Miss a Beat.

Get our best delivered to your inbox.

Representative Michael Grimm of Staten Island, for example, is back in Congress even though he was caught on tape threatening to throw a reporter off a balcony. The appropriately named Grimm, a Republican, is also under indictment for 20 counts of accounting fraud.

Errant Democrats abound, too. Take Charlie Rangel of New York, who has been formally censured by Congress for a mess of ethics violations. Rather than going to the Big House, Rangel is back in the House of Representatives. His constituents reelected him on November 4, and he faced no Republican opponent.

There’s now a bipartisan move in the House to require annual ethics training for every lawmaker. Backers claim that this will enhance the public reputation of each member and of Congress itself.

Dream on — who do they think they’re kidding?

These so-called adults — who didn’t absorb basic ethics from their kindergarten teachers or parents — sure won’t learn anything to improve their morality in a congressional classroom.

Jim Hightower

Jim Hightower

Jim Hightower is a national radio commentator, writer, public speaker, and author of the books "Swim Against The Current: Even A Dead Fish Can Go With The Flow" (2008) and "There's Nothing in the Middle of the Road But Yellow Stripes and Dead Armadillos: A Work of Political Subversion" (1998). Hightower has spent three decades battling the Powers That Be on behalf of the Powers That Ought To Be - consumers, working families, environmentalists, small businesses, and just-plain-folks.

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Simply Don't Exist.

Please select a donation method:

Share This Article