The ends are gruesome. And so are the means:
Today, a non-partisan coalition of eight government watchdog groups condemned a new set of proposals under consideration by House Republican leaders that dramatically weakening House ethics rules. The proposed changes, which are scheduled for consideration this week – the opening week of the new Congress – reportedly include:
-Dropping a key standard for ethics violations. Currently, it is a violation of House ethics rules to act in such a way that creates the appearance of corruption. The new proposal would eliminate that ethics standard and make only actual criminal behavior or illegal activity a violation of ethics rules.
-Deadlocking the ability of the ethics committee to investigate complaints. If the bipartisan House ethics committee ties along party lines whether to conduct an investigation, a complaint automatically triggers an investigation within 45 days. The new proposal would require a majority vote to initiate any investigation.
-Punishing members of the ethics committee who scolded Rep. Tom DeLay for ethics transgressions. A few months ago, the bipartisan House ethics committee unanimously voted to admonish Majority leader DeLay for offering his endorsement to a colleague’s son in exchange for a floor vote, for appearing to link campaign donations with legislation, and for diverting Federal Aviation Administration resources to chase after legislators over a partisan squabble. Rep. Joel Hefley, the Republican chair of the ethics committee, and perhaps other Republican members of the committee who voted for the admonishment, are now facing a drive to remove them from the committee. The eight members of the Congressional Ethics Coalition all join in calling upon Congress to stop this assault on House ethics rules.