House Ethics Committee Takes Tough Action (Against Nothing)
Just when you naysayers thought the House ethics committee was a complete and total sham of an outfit comes the panel's swift and forceful action. Against what, you ask?
Against - drum roll, please - a lawmaker's minor speeding infraction.
That's right, the ethics panel has taken its most expeditious action in years on the case of Rep. Zach Space (D-Ohio), who was ticketed last weekend for speeding (driving 65 mph in a 50 mph zone) and given a warning for driving with an expired license.
While both the House and Senate ethics committees have taken months on end to investigate - and we use that term loosely - Rep. Charles Rangel's (D-N.Y.) questionable financial dealings and Sen. Chris Dodd's (D-Conn.) alleged sweetheart mortgage deal, the case of a misdemeanor speeding ticket got prompt attention.
Never before (in recent history, at least) has the ethics committee acted so quickly. The panel immediately took up the matter, reviewed it, and decided not to punish Space.
To prove its hard work on the case, the House ethics committee this week put out a press release on the very serious matter of Space's driving infraction. An investigation won't be necessary, the release noted. (Really tough call on that one, huh?)
Is this supposed to trick people into thinking the ethics panel actually investigates ethics cases against members of Congress?
Well, we doubt it.
For one, the committee doesn't even have a permanent staff director. And secondly, as Politico's John Bresnahan reports, the new outside Office of Congressional Ethics has yet to refer a single case to the House ethics committee and remains "encumbered by layers of secrecy."
As the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington said last week: "Remember all the talk about the new Office of Congressional Ethics and how it was going to change the way ethics issues were handled in the House? We do. We're still waiting. We had very low expectations in the first place."
Mary Ann Akers
April 3, 2009; 12:46 PM ET
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