WHAT’S BREW­ING

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics -

“Ethics” has cham­pi­ons. A coali­tion of 10 con­ser­va­tive groups with “tea party” pro­cliv­i­ties — in­clud­ing Ju­di­cial Watch, Democ­racy 21 and Na­tional Tax­pay­ers Union — de­scended on the Ray­burn House Of­fice Build­ing on Dec. 2 to urge the in­com­ing House lead­er­ship to con­tinue the Of­fice of Con­gres­sional Ethics (OCE) — an in­de­pen­dent non­par­ti­san in­ves­tiga­tive of­fice that the coali­tion cred­its with “pres­sur­ing the no­to­ri­ously in­ac­tive House ethics com­mit­tee to do its job.”

They have re­search to back the claim: The OCE un­der­took 69 pre­lim­i­nary re­views in 2009 and 2010, while the House ethics com­mit­tee doled out 11 dis­ci­plinary ac­tions in that same time, “more than twice its ac­tiv­ity level dur­ing the Jack Abramoff scan­dal years of 2006 to 2008. The ethics com­mit­tee took no ac­tion around the Abramoff scan­dals dur­ing that pe­riod.”

The OCE has gen­er­ated siz­able op­po­si­tion within Congress, points out Amer­i­can En­ter­prise In­sti­tute scholar Nor­man Orn­stein — in­clud­ing the Com­mit­tee on Stan­dards of Of­fi­cial Con­duct, the Con­gres­sional Black Cau­cus and “many mem­bers who would pre­fer to keep ethics is­sues much closer to their own vests.” House Mi­nor­ity Leader John A. Boehner and Rep. Eric Can­tor, Vir­ginia Repub­li­can, were among those not so keen on the in­de­pen­dent of­fice.

“The tea party ac­tivists’ in­volve­ment has al­ready changed that dy­namic, caus­ing Boehner and Can­tor to back off their com­ments about OCE. These tea partiers, and pre­sum­ably their rep­re­sen­ta­tives in Congress, don’t want the old-boy net­work that long ‘man­aged’ ethics is­sues — with both sides con­spir­ing to avoid se­ri­ous ethics in­ves­ti­ga­tions that would roil the wa­ters. They want an hon­est, open Congress,” Mr. Orn­stein says. Thinker. “One ques­tion: If he and Sarah Palin run, who would the me­dia hate more?”

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