In 2007, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) pushed forward on her pledge to run the most ethical Congress in history and established the House Ethics Enforcement Task Force. She charged the group with setting up an Office of Congressional Ethics, an “independent ethics panel” composed of six “nonpartisan professional staff” members who were jointly appointed by the Speaker and Minority Leader. Lawmakers and lobbyists would be barred from serving.
The House is expected to vote on the task force’s proposal on Thursday. Even though this committee will be independent and nonpartisan, the GOP is already resisting. In an attempt to dissuade Democrats from voting for the ethics office, senior House Republican aides are drawing up a hit list of 10 Democratic lawmakers who would be pursued with ethics investigations if the measure passes. National Journal reports (sub. req’d):
Senior House Republican aides are drawing up a list of Democrats to target if the House votes Thursday to create an independent panel to weigh ethics complaints against lawmakers.
In a move that one top Democratic lawmaker called “political extortion,” House GOP aides said Tuesday the names of more than 10 Democrats are likely to end up on the list and that investigations would be pursued against all of them.
It is not clear how much support House Republican leaders are giving to the staff effort, but several GOP leadership aides who were asked about the list said they were aware of it.
Democratic lawmakers on the GOP list include John Murtha (PA), Jim Moran (VA), and John Conyers (MI), among others.
Pursuing investigations against lawmakers is one thing. But holding off on the investigations to blackmail lawmakers is another. “If they have legitimate ethics concerns about any member, why wouldn’t they bring it forward now?” wondered Rep. Michael Capuano (D-MA), who chairs the ethics task force.
If Boehner is truly serious about his pledge “to enforce a tougher ethical standard in the 110th Congress,” he should disavow this hit list.