There is even more bad news to report from the departed 109th Congress. Most folks – outside Washington – believe the Mark Foley episode should have resulted in strong punitive action by Congress against all of those found guilty of violations. The House Ethics Committee spent 100 hours interviewing members of Congress and congressional staff and taking sworn testimony about inappropriate advances to male pages made by Foley while he was in the House. I really believed that the Committee would do the right thing and set an example for the new Congress. But, the Committee’s 90-page report, released on December 7th, is just another cover-up it appears. Nobody was charged with anything. There were all sorts of wrongful conduct that should have been addressed. House ethics rules are very broad and provide that any member, officer or staff shall conduct themselves “in a manner that shall reflect creditably on the House.” Other ethics clauses require any person in the government to “expose corruption wherever discovered.”
These provisions surely seem to be solemn obligations to ensure that members of Congress and staff will preserve the integrity and dignity of the institution and expose wrongdoing. If what Mark Foley did wasn’t bad enough, and it was awful, the cover-up that took place was even worse. Neither act can be justified and some heads should roll. Foley was guilty of despicable conduct and the American people expected some strong punitive action taken against him. Strong remedial measures must also be put in place to avoid such activities in the future.
There were others who allowed Foley’s conduct to continue and in that regard there appears to have been a deliberate cover-up. Part of the clear obligation owed to the public is to bring potential ethics violations to the attention of the appropriate authorities – in this case, the whole House page board and the House Ethics Committee. While the Committee’s investigation makes clear that no one alerted either the board or the ethics committee of concerns about Foley’s untoward advances to pages, the report lets all of those investigated off the hook. Clearly, those in power were guilty of an utter abdication of their duty to an ethics process that should handle problems of this nature. The Ethics Committee has the power to issue public reprimands and to assess civil fines, among other sanctions. Instead of taking action, the Committee’s recommendations were as weak as last week’s dish water. Nobody was punished and that’s a crying shame.
The report committee talks about operational details of the congressional page program, calling for, among other trivialities, better education of members about the “role of pages in the House.” Public Citizen calls this report an insult to the American public and I agree with their assessment. The ethics process is almost irretrievably broken. Public Citizen believes the only workable fix is “to create an independent ethics monitor to investigate violations on Capitol Hill.” If you have a better solution, let the member of the House of Representative from your district know what you think would work. Clearly, the Foley matter can’t be allowed to drop off the radar screen. If something isn’t done immediately by Congress, that’s exactly what will happen.
Source: Public Citizen
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