OCTOBER 30, 2009
Under fire for failing to act against corrupt lawmakers, the notoriously remiss House Ethics Committee is in fact scrutinizing dozens of legislators, according to a highly confidential memorandum that mysteriously appeared this week.
Washington D.C.’s largest newspaper reports that an internal memo, inadvertently placed on a publicly accessible computer network, indicates that the ethics committee is in fact hard at work and not comatose. The conveniently timed “security breach” comes amid heightened criticism of the committee’s well-documented foot-dragging.
A low-level staff member, whose name has not been released, has been blamed for the breach and subsequently fired, according to the news report. Working from home, the now unemployed staffer improperly placed a document listing the ethic committee’s inquiries into a file-sharing software system accessible to the public.
The private report reveals that more than 30 lawmakers and several aides are being investigated for a variety of issues, including defense lobbying and corporate influence peddling. Among them are five Democrats (John P. Murtha of Pennsylvania, Peter J. Visclosky of Indiana, James P. Moran of Virginia, Norm Dicks of Washington and Marcy Kaptur of Ohio) and two Republicans (Todd Tiahrt of Kansas and C. W. Bill Young of Florida) under probe for giving earmarks to military contractors at the request of a politically-connected lobbying firm.
California Democrat Maxine Waters, a senior member of the congressional committee handling the financial crisis, is also under investigation for shamelessly steering federal bailout funds to her husband’s bank and House Ways and Means Chairman Charles Rangel is being probed for hiding hundreds of thousands of dollars in assets and evading taxes. Ironically, the New York Democrat chairs the House committee that writes the nation’s tax code.
But these are just probes that may never lead to any action against the offender. After all, the investigators are the friends and colleagues of the scrutinized subjects. Sometimes they’re financial beneficiaries. For instance, Rangel has given hefty campaign contributions to the members charged with investigating him. Since his ethics probes began last fall, Rangel has covertly donated money to 119 members of congress, including three of the five Democrats (Kentucky’s Ben Chandler, North Carolina’s G.K. Butterfield and Vermont’s Peter Welch) on the House Ethics Committee who are working on his case.
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