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Judicial Watch • Black Lawmakers Try To Restrict Ethics Probes

Black Lawmakers Try To Restrict Ethics Probes

Black Lawmakers Try To Restrict Ethics Probes

JUNE 04, 2010

After being targeted in a series of corruption probes, black congressional leaders have quietly introduced legislation to essentially gut the independent office they helped create to investigate wrongdoing among lawmakers.

Ohio Democrat Marcia Fudge introduced the measure to drastically weaken the independent Office of Congressional Ethics that recently determined her top aide improperly helped black caucus members take a lavish Caribbean trip funded by corporations. Congress created the citizen-run ethics office in 2008 because the House Ethics Committee is a joke that seldom investigates corruption.

But the panel’s inquiries have hit the Congressional Black Caucus hard and nearly half of its members want the vibrant new ethics office to cut back on its aggressive agenda to weed out corruption in the U.S. House of Representatives. Twenty of the 42 members of the all-Democratic caucus support Fudge’s measure, which is also sponsored by Black Caucus Chairwoman Barbara Lee of California.

In its short existence, the ethics office has investigated at least eight black caucus members, including the notoriously crooked Charlie Rangel of New York who got booted as chair of the House Ways and Means Committee this year. Besides violating House gift rules, Rangel is under investigation for tax evasion, hiding hundreds of thousands of dollars in assets, using his office to raise money from corporations with business before him and illegally accepting multiple rent control apartments in his New York district.

Until the independent ethics office was created, Rangel was practically untouchable because fellow lawmakers on the House Ethics Committee refused to take any action against their beloved colleague. Now his buddies in the Congressional Black Caucus want to severely restrict the powers of the civilian ethics office by making it harder to launch investigations and by keeping probes from the public, among other things.

In a statement to the Cleveland newspaper that broke this story, Fudge claims that she’s simply trying to “perfect” the “processes” of the new ethics panel to ensure that its aims are “achieved in a manner consistent with America’s spirit of justice.” The so-called “processes” must be fair to all people involved, Fudge’s statement goes onto say. Sounds like she just doesn’t want any of her pals to get investigated.


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