Ethics Committee Gone Wild

By Matthew Cooper

Being in the right place at the right time matters in life, and that seems to be what happened at The Washington Post. The Post noticed that some confidential documents from the House ethics committee had been put on a public server, and they got themselves a big scoop--a list of lawmakers being examined by the committee. Such information is supposed to be kept confidential because it doesn't take much for the committee to examine a member, at least in an informal way. But it was later revealed that a junior staffer, working from home, had not followed the necessary security protocols, and so the list got leaked. It shows no fewer than seven members of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee under scrutiny. Does that mean these members have broken the law? Not necessarily. Does it raise long-familiar questions about what Eisenhower famously called the military-industrial complex?

All totaled, more than 30 members of Congress are being looked at by the committee. Whether all of the cases become full blown investigations or lead to penalties like censure remains to be seen. Most will probably wither. But following the conviction this year of Rep. William Jefferson and before that Bob Ney and Randy "Duke" Cunningham, it's a reminder that raw corruption remains a fact of life in the House, more so than in the Senate, where members often come in with considerable personal assets and may be less prone to temptation. View the full Post article here.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2009/10/ethics-committee-gone-wild/29370/