Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) is Chair of the House Ethics Committee, which is supposed to be conducting a trial of Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY) on the 13 violations of House rules the Committee alleged on July 29. There is also supposed to be a trial of Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA).
Instead, Lofgren played host on Friday to comedian Stephen Colbert who testified “in character” on the plight of migrant farm workers before a Judiciary Committee subcommittee that Lofgren also chairs. I thought Colbert was actually pretty funny but other reviews were mixed.
The episode did confirm the Ethics Committee’s reputation as a joke. With corruption fueling anti-Congress sentiment, you would think that the Committee would be meeting around the clock to demonstrate that Pelosi’s pledge to “drain the swamp” is real. When Pelosi and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) were asked earlier this year about the embarrassing ethics case involving Rangel, they responded that it proved the Democrats were serious about ethics.
It should be noted that neither the Rangel or Waters probes would have gone anywhere if left to the Ethics Committee. It acted only after the new Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) raised the profile of the cases. Regarding Rangel, OCE investigated not the allegations that became the 13 counts, but corporate-funded junkets exposed by NLPC. The OCE report on the junkets was referred to the Ethics Committee and became the basis for the “admonishment” that led to Rangel’s resignation from his Ways and Means chairmanship, making it more difficult for the Ethics Committee to ignore the other allegations.
In the Waters case, OCE conducted a detailed investigation, prompting the Ethics Committee to act.
Pelosi has argued that OCE was her creation, thus evidence of a commitment to ethics. But her commitment is meaningless if the Ethics Committee simply punts because of inconvenient events like elections.
There have been vague reports of the Ethics Committee meeting in recent days but no there has been no explanation as to why the trials will be put off until after Election Day. It can’t be because the House is too busy.
Earlier in the week, Dana Milbank of the Washington Post visited Steny Hoyer’s office and offered this account of the House’s workload:
Democrats have so little on their schedule that their first vote of the week is coming at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, when Americans are most of the way through their workweeks.
Among the items they’ll consider: H.R. 1545, “Expressing support for designation of the week beginning on the third Monday in September as ‘National Postdoc Appreciation Week.’ ” And: H.R. 4387, naming the building at 100 North Palafox St. in Pensacola, Fla., the “Winston E. Arnow Federal Building.”
“Your schedule,” Linda Scott of PBS remarked to Hoyer at Tuesday morning’s meeting, “looks pretty light.” She asked whether Democrats are “telling you they need to be back home, rather than naming post offices?”
“We always name post offices,” Hoyer replied with irritation. “It’s a worthwhile endeavor to do that, and people really do appreciate it, particularly when it’s their name and their community.”
What the American people would appreciate more is running the crooks out of Congress.
Timeline of Charles Rangel Ethics Scandal
Flaherty: Rangel Had to Know of Junket’s Corporate Sponsorship (Fox News Channel video)
Flaherty: Rangel Dirty Even After Coming Clean (CNN/Anderson Cooper video)
Flaherty: Rangel is ‘Serial Offender’ (CNN/Anderson Cooper video)