Hoyer: number of investigations proves Congress is "most ethical" in history
Tuesday, November 3, 2009; 6:11 PM
By Paul Kane House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) on Tuesday said that Democrats are living up to their promise to run the "most ethical" Congress in history, despite a new ethics committee document showing that his party's lawmakers have drawn far more scrutiny than Republicans. Hoyer cited the release of the document, showing nearly three dozen members facing some form of ethics review, as evidence that Democrats had met the pledge to robustly enforce tougher new rules that were imposed in 2007 shortly after they took the majority. "The good news is, there were a lot of people saying the ethics committee wasn't doing anything. They were disabused of that theory pretty emphatically," Hoyer told reporters Tuesday. The Washington Post reported last week that the ethics committee and the new Office of Congressional Ethics, which conducts preliminary reviews and makes referrals to the full committee, were conducting far more investigations than had been known. The report was based on a confidential document that a junior staffer accidentally placed on a public network through her home computer. This allowed an outside source with no business before the ethics committee -- and no connection to Congress -- to discover it and give it to The Post. Just seven Republicans were under scrutiny from either the ethics committee or the OCE, and a few of those cases were several years old, according to the document, which covered the committee's activities in late July. More than 25 House Democrats had cases pending before one of the two investigative offices. Hoyer said this proved that Democrats had not come into power and run a partisan panel, and that Democrats would allow the ethic investigators to pursue cases against the majority. "They were also disabused of the fact that this is somehow being handled in a partisan fashion. Clearly, it's not, it's a bipartisan issue. ... I think that the reports indicated that they are doing their job. We'll have to see what the outcomes of their work are. And, to that extent, I think that we are doing exactly what we said we would do," Hoyer said. Democrats under investigation include Reps. John Murtha (D-Pa.), the chairman of a subcommittee controlling the Pentagon's more than $600 billion annual budget; Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.), chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, with jurisdiction over tax and trade policy; and Silvestre Reyes (D-Texas), chairman of the intelligence committee. During the 2006 campaign, as Republicans endured criminal investigations into the actions of more than a dozen GOP incumbents, Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) made a campaign pledge that if she were to be speaker, the newly empowered Democrats would "drain the swamp" of corruption on Capitol Hill and run the "most ethical Congress" in history.