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Congressional Ethics – John Conyers

Incoming Judiciary chair John Conyers has ethics problems, and the punishment will be … please don’t do it again. But will Speaker Pelosi take action (as she certainly wouldn’t want an ethics problem before Congress even convenes)? Shouldn’t Judiciary Committee members have superior ethics?

Apparently not. Congressional ethics — the biggest oxymoron of all. But allow the Committee to speak for itself.

The Chairman and Ranking Minority Member, pursuant to Committee Rule 18(a), initiated an informal inquiry in December 2003 into reports that members of the congressional staff of Representative John Conyers had performed campaign activity on official time and in some instances using official resources, and that some staff members may have been compelled to do campaign work or personal work for Representative Conyers.

Representative Conyers also provided the Committee with documents indicating that he had begun taking steps to provide clearer guidance to staff regarding the requirement that campaign work and official work be separate.

Interesting the MSM isn’t covering this story much. Perhaps because they lean left, or perhaps because a Congressman having ethics problems isn’t really news. If he actually took responsibility, and was sanctioned for his ethical lapses, that would be news. Instead, it’s business as usual — Congressmen acting improperly isn’t exactly front-page headlines.

Of course, it’s not his fault, but a “lack of clarity” in communications. So what will the resolution be? Perhaps removal as chair? Removal from the Judiciary Committee? What did the ethics committee say?

Provided that the above requirements are complied with, this matter will remain closed, and the Committee will take no further action on it.

And from the Washington Times:

The case against Mr. Conyers was closed without punitive action or a letter of reproval from the Committee on Standards of Conduct, the ethics panel, which is comprised of five Democrats and five Republicans.

Some Republican lawmakers and congressional watchdogs say the “slap on the wrist” for Mr. Conyers raises doubts about new ethics rules that Speaker-designate Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, promises for the first 100 hours of the 110th Congress that convenes tomorrow.

In short, now that he’s been caught, he’ll agree to stop breaking the rules. With stellar oversight like this, it’s no wonder Congress is a model of ethics (a bad one). Shouldn’t Congressmen know that taxpayers shouldn’t pay for their campaign or other personal work? This isn’t obvious? (Perhaps someone should advise the Congressman running with scissors isn’t a bright idea either).

Nope, just ignore the rules, and when caught, blame “lack of clarity” instead of taking responsibility. It’s not your fault, it’s the air in Washington — you shouldn’t be held to such basic ethical principles. But since the Congressman won’t accept responsibility, Speaker Pelosi should step up and take action. At the very least, he should not chair the Judiciary Committee until he has some basic training in ethics — starting with congressional staff is not for your personal use.

Congress should have the highest standards for ethics and proper behavior — much higher than private citizens (Congressmen have fiduciary duty to the citizens they represent). Instead, they’re a model of what not to do. Their “oversight” is useless, as it’s the fox guarding the hen house (neither party really wants to get tough with ethics since they’re both dirty). Anyone hoping the Democrats will clean up this mess (as they claimed during the elections) has been deceived — will no one in Congress stand up for what’s right?

Madam Speaker, consider (and act on) what President Clinton’s chief of staff had to say:

“You can attack one party for having a lack of ethics, but if any of your own members have problems, it dulls the message with the American people,” said Leon Panetta, an ex-Democratic congressman from California and chief of staff under President Clinton. “They begin to put everybody in the same box. It clearly loses some of its impact as a clean campaign issue.”

Speaker Pelosi, what happened to ending the “culture of corruption” in Washington? Perhaps that doesn’t count when it’s a member of your own party.

Meet the new boss — same as the old boss.

Further Reading on John Conyers ethics

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