MAY 18, 2006
Months after the Justice Department launched the corruption investigation of two congressmen – talk about a delayed reaction – the House ethics committee has decided to finally open its own investigation.
Abundant evidence of wrongdoing had been exposed by the federal government’s separate cases involving the two lawmakers, yet the ethics committee, formally known as the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, slept through the process.
Former top aides of both congressmen – Republican Bob Ney of Ohio and Democrat William Jefferson of Louisiana – have pleaded guilty to federal corruption charges and plan to testify that their former bosses accepted bribes and illegal gifts from government contractors and lobbyists.
So why the delay on the part of the ethics committee? Politics, of course. The panel has been virtually shut down for 16 months by partisan deadlock even though violations have been at an all-time high. No wonder a recent poll taken earlier this month revealed that only 23% of adults nationwide approve of the way Congress is handling its job. The numbers have not been that low in more than a decade.
Perhaps the online news journal Working For Change sums it up best in a recent editorial that reads, in part: “High-level corruption and sleaze are alive and well in Washington D.C. and your member of Congress might just be the next one indicted.”
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