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On the subject of Congressional ethics...

ASK THIS | April 30, 2006

We don’t hear much talk now about what was a big flurry only a few months ago. That means Congress has the problem under control, right?

By Morton Mintz

(Questions for House and Senate candidates)

Q. Why should the public trust Congress to self-police the ethics of Representatives and Senators?

Q. Would you vote to preserve or reverse the prohibition on outsiders filing ethics complaints against lawmakers?

Q. If elected (or re-elected), what would you do to assure that Congress earns the public's trust?

Q. Senator Collins of Maine has said that "by hiring professionals to oversee lobbying reports and the investigation of ethics complaints, Congress would improve its credibility by ending the appearance of conflict-of-interest created by the self-policing of its ethics committees." Do you favor having an independent outside group overseeing lobbying and ethics complaints? If not, why not?

The Duke Cunningham, Jack Abramoff, and related evolving bribery scandals are expected to lead to criminal prosecution of lawmakers by the Justice Department. When he was House Majority Leader, Tom Delay had the chairman of the House Ethics Committee removed after it had sharply criticized his conduct.

Despite the earlier hoopla, at this point it looks like Congress is sweeping the whole subject of ethics oversight and enforcement under the rug.

In an 11-5 vote, the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs' defeated a proposal—sponsored by its own Republican chairman, Susan Collins, and senior Democrat, Joseph Lieberman—to oversee the enforcement of congressional ethics and lobbying laws. Collins, quoted in a Washington Post article, called the existing system of reviewing lobbyists' public reports "a joke."  

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