Blacks, Boehner Hate the Office of Congressional Ethics

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In a piece for Mother Jones, Suzy Khimm reports on an unusual wrinkle to come out of the House of Representative's censure of Charles Rangel. According to Khimm, the measure against Rangel might prompt an alliance between members of the Congressional Black Caucus and House Republicans under presumptive Speaker John Boehner. Both of these groups have a bone to pick with the Office of Congressional Ethics, the oversight panel that marshaled much of the evidence against Rangel.

Khimm writes:

Back in the spring, a group of twenty CBC members signed onto a resolution to rein in the OCE and curtail its authority to make investigations public, arguing that the office was destroying political reputations and victimizing black lawmakers. But soon they may have the chance to do more than just neuter the OCE. Having vocally opposed the creation of the panel, incoming House Speaker John Boehner and other top Republicans are quietly discussing ways to kill the OCE when it comes up for mandatory reauthorization next year—and it looks like at least a handful of Democrats could be on board.

Is the OCE putting black representatives under unfair scrutiny? Khimm reports that at least some CBC members, including Representative Marcia Fudge of Ohio, believe it is. Khimm quotes William Lacy Clay, a representative from Missouri and member of the CBC, who called the Office of Congressional Ethics "unprecedented and untraditional in the history of this institution. It's duplicitous, it's a waste of taxpayer money... There should be no place for it here in this institution."

The CBC-GOP team-up is all just speculation at this point, and Khimm notes that if it does happen, it could be on shaky footing: "Some CBC members are wary of aligning themselves too closely with the GOP, whose members have frequently been accused of skirting ethics laws to collude with lobbyists and other deep-pocketed interests." Meanwhile, Republicans have at least one good reason not to axe the OCE--it would incur the wrath of Tea Party watchdogs who want to keep Congress transparent. In other words, this is a story in progress, though at least you can say that it's been a good week for GOP minority outreach.

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