On Thursday, Democrats will take control of Congress for the first time in 12 years. I have stated before, that at least with regards to ethics and corruption, I am cautiously optimistic about the prospects of reform.
The House, at least, has an ambitious agenda
On the first day back, Democrats plan to change House rules on what members can accept from lobbyists. On the second day, they'll vote on other rules changes requiring that new spending or tax cuts be paid for and that pet projects tucked into larger bills be publicly disclosed.
So far, they have skirted disaster by rejecting John Murtha as Majority Leader and Alcee Hastings as Intelligence Committee chairman. But it seems they are still considering John Conyers as the chairman of the Judiciary Committee even though he was sanctioned by the Ethics Committee just a few days ago
The ethics inquiry began in December, 2003 when former staff members complained to the ethics panel, formerly named the House Committee on Standards and Official Conduct, that Conyers had required his official staffers to work on campaigns, babysit his children, and run personal errands....
So Conyers claims that his staff misunderstood his communications to them
Conyers told committee investigators there was a "lack of clarity" in his communications with staff about their official duties and responsibilities.
Right. Like his staff just decided they had signed up to babysit and help his wife gain a law degree when they took the job. So to square things with the Ethics Committee
Conyers agreed to prohibit his congressional staff from performing any paid or voluntary campaign work during the coming term of Congress, unless the staff member takes a paid position on his campaign while on leave without pay from the office and obtains prior written approval from the ethics committee.
He also agreed to have an annual meeting with staff to go over the rules regarding work responsibilities; maintain detailed records of staffers' work hours; and require all staffers to attend a briefing with ethics committee lawyers to explain rules regarding congressional and campaign work.
But shouldn't it be Conyers who has to submit to annual ethics briefings to remind him of the rules? Does anyone seriously believe that this indicates a lack of ethics on the part of the employees? Clearly it is not his staff that needs monitoring so much as the Congressman.
Yet, this is the man Democrats are choosing to chair the Judiciary Committee.
How will this instill credibility in the new, more ethical Congress?
Scrappleface's Scott Ott takes a stab at the "reasoning" Democrats may be employing
Speaker-elect Nancy Pelosi today defended Rep. John Conyers’, D-MI, as “the ideal pick for judiciary committee chairman” after the House Ethics Committee sanctioned Rep. Conyers for using taxpayer-funded staffers for political campaign work, babysitting and personal errands.
“I can think of no one better to head up oversight of the federal courts and law enforcement,” said Rep. Pelosi, “than a man like John Conyers who understands the subtleties of the law, the gray areas of ethics, and the potential for corruption even in the hearts and minds of those with legal training, who have sworn to uphold that law.”
“The country doesn’t need a naive neophyte,” she said, “but rather someone with demonstrated experience in pushing the ethical envelope, blurring the line, and in fact stepping over that line. Only a mind forged in the cauldron of ethical transgression will have the insight to spot opportunities for corruption in our judiciary system.”
Mrs. Pelosi, who has already said that impeaching President George Bush is “off the table”, nevertheless noted that if circumstances should change her mind, Rep. Conyers could “boldly lead the charge in drafting articles of impeachment thanks to his deep, personal understanding of what makes a politician unfit to serve.”
Wouldn't surprise me.
Democrats! Make me a believer that you are serious about reforming Congress.