CREW: House and Senate Ethics Committees Protecting the Most Corrupt Members of Congress
"Since CREW released our first Most Corrupt report in 2005, more than half of the unethical members of Congress we've highlighted have left office," said Melanie Sloan, CREW's Executive Director. "That's a pretty good batting average, but not good enough. 26 shady politicians remain, most of whom haven't even been investigated by the congressional ethics committees. Congress must give the OCE the tools it needs to ensure that every corrupt politician is held accountable for his or her actions. In addition, the Senate would benefit from the creation of a similar office with jurisdiction to inquire into senatorial misdeeds."
Currently the OCE has no subpoena power, a very limited time frame to investigate any allegations, and can only look at misconduct that occurred since March 2008. In spite of being forced to fight with one hand tied behind its back, the OCE has referred 13 cases to the House Ethics Committee for review, though the committee has taken action against only two. Even that limited success has prompted members of both parties to openly talk of stripping away the OCE's authority -- or even dismantling the office altogether -- in the 112th Congress. Congresswoman Marcia Fudge (D-OH) has proposed legislation that would eviscerate the OCE, and Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) has said he wants to "take a look" at its usefulness.
The Senate has nothing comparable to the OCE, but clearly needs one. The Senate Ethics Committee has allowed Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) to skate for years, barely commented when former Sen. Pete Domenici (R-NM) tried to push a U.S. Attorney to conduct a criminal investigation for political purposes, and blamed itself when Sens. Kent Conrad (D-ND) and Chris Dodd (D-CT) received preferential treatment from Countrywide Mortgages. And it has yet to utter a peep in response to Sen. John Ensign's (R-NV) thoroughly reprehensible conduct.
"The House and Senate have done a dismal job policing the misconduct of their members. Over and over, the ethics committees in both Houses reveal they are not up to the job of enforcing ethics rules," added Ms. Sloan. "The American people deserve a Congress devoid of ethically challenged people, and an empowered OCE will help make that a reality."
The 26 Members listed in 2010; The Most Corrupt Members of Congress: Unfinished Business (alphabetical)
- Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN),
- Rep. Roy Blunt (R-MO), (Leaving the House to run for Senate)
- Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-FL),
- Rep. Ken Calvert (R-CA),
- Rep. Doc Hastings (R-WA),
- Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-IL),
- Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-CA),
- Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-IL),
- Rep. Gary Miller (R-CA),
- Rep. Alan Mollohan (D-WV), (Defeated in primary)
- Rep. Tim Murphy (R-PA),
- Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY),
- Rep. Laura Richardson (D-CA),
- Rep. Harold Rogers (R-KY),
- Rep. David Scott (D-GA),
- Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX),
- Rep. Mike Turner (R-OH),
- Rep. Pete Visclosky (D-IN),
- Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA),
- Rep. Don Young (R-AK),
- Sen. Roland Burris (D-IL), (Not running for reelection)
- Sen. John Ensign (R-NV),
- Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA),
- Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY),
- Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), (Defeated in primary)
- Sen. David Vitter (R-LA)
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) is a non-profit legal watchdog group dedicated to holding public officials accountable for their actions. For more information, please visit www.citizensforethics.org or contact Jordan Libowitz at 202.408.5565 or firstname.lastname@example.org.