Friday, May 19, 2006

Ethics Committee to Investigate Cunningham

Yes, the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct (Congressional Ethics Committee) is back on the job after an almost two year hiatus. The problem is that most of their targets are either in jail or on their way there. That's going to make the long months of hearings sort of useless, don't you think? It's unlikely that the committee will actually go after anyone who isn't already under investigation.
A statement issued by the committee said the panel intends to act forcefully if it uncovers wrongdoing.

"Should we become aware, either through the inquiry we have undertaken or through any other source, of facts supporting a more formal investigation of one or more members, officers or employees, we intend to take all appropriate steps under committee rules, including recommending the establishment of one or more investigative subcommittees."

A spokeswoman for the Washington office of the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, said she doubts that would happen and contended that the committee statement released by Chairman Doc Hastings, R-Washington, was nothing more than a public relations exercise.

"It's pretty funny considering Cunningham is already sitting in jail," said the group's Naomi Seligman Steiner. "And anyone the committee might look at is already under investigation by the Justice Department."

Because of that, she said, she expects the committee will announce later this year that it is suspending its work.

"The committee will say it wanted to do an investigation but couldn't because the subjects are already part of a federal probe, so this won't result in anything other than the committee being able to say, 'Look, we tried.' "
Come election time, the members of the committee can look their constituents in the eye and say "we tried." I guess that's something.