The Impact of the House Ethics Investigations

More than 30 lawmakers are under investigation for alleged ethics abuses

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A leaked ethics committee report shows that more than 30 House members are currently under scrutiny for a variety of possible ethics abuses. The most serious allegations involve corporate influence-peddling and defense lobbying, the latter of which has nearly half of the House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee under investigation. Democratic and Republican leaders of the ethics committee have emphasized that investigations are preliminary and not an indication of wrongdoing. The junior staffer responsible for the apparently accidental leak has already been fired. Still, the investigations--as well as the leaked report--could have serious repercussions for the lawmakers targeted and for legislation attached to them.

  • Let's Finally Ban Industry Earmarks Atlanta Journal-Constitution blogger Jay Bookman argues corruption is inherent in allowing earmarks to private companies. "The earmarking practice is so fraught with temptation that corruption seems almost inevitable. Earmarks for a project in your district -- a bridge, a highway, etc. -- are bad enough. But in this case we're talking multi-million-dollar earmarks not for a project but for specific private companies...and a whole lobbying enterprise has naturally sprung up to 'encourage' them to do so," he writes. "Congress as an institution has to act...At the very least, it ought to ban all earmarks to private companies, period, because it is an inherently corrupting practice."
  • Defense Lobby Fights Back On Cuts? The liberal blogosphere is drawing connections between alleged abuses in the defense spending subcommittee and President Obama's reduction in defense spending. "Political affiliations aren't the point, though. The point is that we've seen the White House pare back defense spending last week and now we're seeing the House doing something about the process which pours money into defense and (apparently) accepts tips," wrote Prairie Weather, a liberal blog.
  • Finding The 'Sacrificial Lamb' Liberal columnist David Corn warns that high-ranking Democratic Rep. Rangel "would make a great sacrificial lamb" if the investigations heat up. "Though the members being investigated are a bipartisan group, more Democrats are involved. And that will give House Republicans fuel for their effort to brand the Dems as corrupt power brokers," he writes. "Recently, they have zeroed in on Rangel, who has too many ethics troubles to keep track of. But Democrats have stood by the influential Rangel, beating back GOP moves to censure him and remove his chairmanship."
  • Could Bring Tougher Cybersecurity Law The Atlantic's Marc Ambinder thinks the timing could push forward cybersecurity legislation that would be tougher and broader. "Good timing for Sen. Joe Lieberman," who today lays out his bill for expanded cybersecurity powers. "Lieberman's bill will give the Department of Homeland Security the authority and personnel to monitor federal civilian networks and defend against malicious traffic."
  • What Else Is New? Michelle Malkin scoffs that the ethics abuses should come as no surprise, taking the opportunity to tout her book, "Culture of Corruption." "Readers of this blog are quite familiar with the corruption scandals involving California Democrats Maxine Waters and Laura Richardson," she writes. "Which reminds me of the Bess Myerson quote that I included at the beginning of Culture of Corruption: 'The accomplice to the crime of corruption is frequently our own indifference.'" Of course, the investigations target Democrats as well as Republicans, a fact Malkin leaves out.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.