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Race No Issue For Crooked Congressmen

Politico reporters John Bresnahan and Jonathon Allen raise the question of when the race card is drawn when it comes to investigation of House ethics violations.

At one point this session of the 111th Congress, eight of the 42 members of the House Black Caucus were under investigation by the Office of Congressional Ethics which was created by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in 2006 to clear the swamp of congressional malfeasance. All were filed by the conservative watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.

The eight Democrats represent 19% of the black caucus and 1.8% of the 435-member House of Representatives.

Politico quoted one anonymous black Congressman:

There’s a “dual standard, one for most members and one for African-Americans,” said one member of the Congressional Black Caucus, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The member said it’s too easy for an outside group to damage someone’s reputation by filing a claim with OCE.

“This is stacked against you once an accusation is made,” the lawmaker added. “You’re guilty until proven otherwise.”

Majority whip Jim Clyburn of South Carolina and a member of the black caucus spoke on the record last October: “A lot of people have been raising concerns [about the OCE], and I support them… At some point in the not-so-distant future, these concerns will have to be addressed.”

The OCE  investigates and reports its findings to the House Ethics Committee. That committee can send cases for a trial among its peers which, in turn, can expel, censure, reprimand or exonerate.

Unless deals are struck, two trials will be held in September for Rep. Charles Rangel of New York and Maxine Waters of Los Angeles.

On its own with only two black sources, Politico reports: “Raising questions about race and whether black lawmakers face more scrutiny over allegations of ethical or criminal wrongdoing than their white colleagues.”

Politico points out that another black Congresswoman  under investigation was ed by Rep. G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C.), a member of the caucus.

“House Democrats are paying a price for OCE’s focus on black lawmakers,” added still another anonymous Democratic insider close to House leaders, quoted by Politico.

“But that doesn’t change the fact that voters are going to see two African-Americans on trial in the House while they see no action against white members with ethical problems.”

Melanie Sloan, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington is quoted the current situation is bound to anger black lawmakers.

“There are ethics problems within the CBC,” she said. “They have to acknowledge that.”

Sloan noted that several white lawmakers, including Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.) and Rep. Pete Visclosky (D-Ind.), are currently under investigation by federal and congressional investigators. Ensign is being investigated by the Senate Ethics Committee and the Justice Department over the fallout from an extramarital affair he had with the wife of a top aide, while Visclosky and his former chief of staff are being probed over their ties to a now-defunct lobbying firm raided by the feds last year.

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EPILOGUE

Can someone please explain a double negative to me. Since when is ethics and criminal violations among our elected representatives gone color blind? I always figured it crossed racial lines. A couple of white Southern House speakers come to mind in Newt Gingrich and Jim Wright. Pardon me, but I don’t buy any race card being played in the current flap involving Charlie Rangel and Maxine Waters. Of course, the party in power usually is the subject of most of the ethical improprieties. It lends credence to the axiom that power corrupts. This is an equal opportunity crime unconfined by racial or gender or sexual orientation.

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