JUNE 21, 2010
Judicial Watch, the public interest group that investigates and prosecutes government corruption, announced today that it has filed an official complaint with the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) against Rep. Bob Etheridge (D-NC) for allegedly assaulting a man on a Washington, DC, sidewalk on June 9th. According to press accounts, after the man asked Rep. Etheridge “Do you fully support the Obama agenda?” Etheridge allegedly grabbed the man by the wrist and by the “scruff” of the neck, pulling him into “an awkward clinch.” A video of the incident was widely distributed on the Internet and aired nationwide on major television networks.
According to Judicial Watch’s complaint, sent to the OCE’s Staff Director and Chief Counsel Leo Wise on June 18, 2010:
It is essential that the House hold Congressman Bob Etheridge to the high standards of behavior expected of a Member of the House. Congressman Etheridge acted out in a violent and threatening manner in response to an unremarkable inquiry by a member of the public. The public confidence in Congress has been diminished as a result.
Judicial Watch asks the OCE to take action in accordance with its authority as set forth in the House Ethics manual, which states:
“Public office is a public trust” has long been a guiding principle of government. To uphold this trust, Congress has bound itself to abide by certain standards of conduct, expressed in the Code of Official Conduct (House Rule 23) and the Code of Ethics for Government Service. These codes provide that Members, officers and employees are to conduct themselves in a manner that will reflect creditably on the House.
According to the manual, the U.S. Constitution authorizes Congress to punish members for disorderly behavior. Such punishments include: expulsion (with concurrence by two-thirds of the House), censure, reprimand, reduction of seniority, or “other sanction determined to be appropriate.” Judicial Watch also notes in its complaint that, in addition to any reprimand by Congress, Rep. Etheridge could also face criminal sanctions for assault under the laws of the District of Columbia and could be subject to penalties of up to $1,000 and 180 days in jail.
“As impotent as the House Ethics process has been, I cannot imagine Congress is going to allow one of its members to assault someone with video evidence without punishment,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “Without a doubt, Congressman Etheridge brought shame upon the institution of Congress with his appalling and violent outburst. He ought to be punished to the full extent of law and in accordance with the rules of conduct for members of Congress.”