Americans don’t trust Congress. Gone are the days when 84 percent of the public approved of the job Congress was doing (in October 2001, to be exact). The latest polls show an approval rating of 21 percent. So when the House of Representatives created a new ethics panel recently, it probably struck many people as a step in the right direction.
At least until you take a closer look at this panel and how it’s supposed to work.
Start with the fact that the House already has an Ethics Committee. The new Office of Congressional Ethics is a separate entity. Ah, its advocates say, that’s the point: It’s an outside, independent panel. No need to worry about partisan politics undermining necessary ethics investigations.
Leave it to the brilliant and courageous Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., to pull back the curtain on this bogus “reform.” In a March 17 column for Townhall.com, she blasted the liberal leadership that supported the fraud and explained why she opposed the legislation:
“Their package would allow lobbyists, 527s, and others to raise a cloud of suspicion over any elected member of Congress without any supporting facts, without any corroborating evidence and without any accountability to the people or the venerated institutions of our democracy.”
Even the main supporter of the new panel, Rep. Michael Capuano, D-Mass., seems to have his doubts. “I won’t know if this works for a year, and it might not,” he recently said. Wouldn’t it have made more sense to have tried reforming the existing committee first?
That’s what we need outsiders for, panel advocates claim. As Sarah Dufendach, a lobbyist for Common Cause, told The Washington Post: “For the first time in history, you have non-members able to initiate investigations. They’re the new police.” That irritates members on both sides of the aisle.
“We have a new grand jury in the House,” Rep. Neil Abercrombie, D-Hawaii, said. “Any referral to the Office of Congressional Ethics will be tantamount to a guilty verdict. Any other conclusion by the ethics committee will be seen as a cover-up. I guarantee it.
This echoes a criticism Rep. Bachmann levels at the liberal leadership: “Their ‘ethics’ package flies in the face of every tenet of responsible justice. Their ‘ethics’ package lowers the standard of wrong-doing to the mere appearance of impropriety. Their ‘ethics’ package keeps real non-partisan ethics attorneys and investigators from being able to do their jobs.