Ethics Under Attack

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When Democrats rode into power in 2006, Speaker Pelosi promised they’d quickly pass their Six for ’06 agenda and that they’d “clean out the swamp.” Part of that agenda was to create an independent Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE), which they did to great success. Yes, some Democrats have felt the pain of this office, ahem Charlie Rangel, but doesn’t this mean that the process is working?

Apparently, it’s working a little too well as Pelosi in the last two weeks has signaled that she is open to tinkering with the OCE rules ahead of the next Congress — reflecting the anger of the Congressional Black Caucus, namely. As newspaper editorials around the country have noted, OCE appears to be facing a backlash mostly for taking ethics so seriously. How ironic. The Office of Congressional Ethics coming under congressional fire for actually dealing with ethics.

This morning I read that the House is moving swiftly to give subpoena power to the panel investigating the BP Gulf leak. A power they never granted to OCE — instead, they’re talking about scaling back OCE’s power. “If we want to get to the facts…we need to have full disclosure,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said.

So, it occurs to me:

Cleaning up the muck on the Gulf Coast = very, very important.
Cleaning up the muck on the Hill = what muck?