I don’t know all the ins and outs of the current uproar over Democratic Rep. Alan B. Mollohan and his finances. Hopefully, federal investigators can promptly determine whether or not the honorable gentleman from West Virginia did, among other alleged outrages, help funnel upwards of $178 million in federal funds to nonprofits run by a few of his more reliable campaign contributors. And if he is indeed guilty, Democrats should promptly force Congressman Mollohan to commit political hara kiri on the House floor in front of God and C-SPAN.
In the meantime, however, Nancy Pelosi should go ahead and ask Mollohan to take a break from his duties on the ethics committee. In part, I don’t want to see Mollohan become a tool for GOPers hoping to put Dems on the defensive about ethics and thus take the “culture of corruption” issue off the table altogether.
But I also don’t want Mollohan to become a scapegoat for an increasingly worthless ethics committee. Already Denny Hastert has suggested that Mollohan’s personal situation is at the root of the committee’s recent inactivity. It’s a lovely theory—especially if you’re a Republican tired of making excuses for Delay, Ney, Cunningham, etc. Unfortunately, it ignores the fact that the House ethics committee may be the single most useless, if not downright counterproductive entity operating in Washington—which, yes, I know, is saying quite a bit. I am on record calling for the dissolution of the entire committee. And while I realize my hope is little more than a fantasy, I hate to see Mollohan even for an instant allow anyone to use the one-bad-apple argument to take the heat off a truly pathetic congressional institution.