Sunday, March 18, 2007

Congressional Ethics? Congressional Corruption?

A new congressional ethics rule is causing headaches for lawmakers as they scrambled to meet Thursday's deadline to request funding for projects in their districts.

The new rule, instituted on the first day of the new Democratic-controlled Congress in response to recent scandals, requires members to certify that they have no financial interest in projects they seek to fund.

But the rule is too ambiguous, congressional aides said, making lawmakers unsure of what constitutes a financial interest and whether a favorable comment about a project would be considered a request.

House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) wrote to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) Thursday for clarification, calling the issue "a matter of profound concern to many of our members on both sides of the aisle."

"There are many ways by which members express support for specific appropriations - both orally and in writing - at various stages of the legislative process," Boehner wrote. "In the absence of written guidance, members are understandably uncertain about which official actions would trigger the requirement in the rule."

Boehner asked whether specific instances, such as raising the issue with a committee chairman or voting for a bill containing the provision, would constitute a formal request and require the financial certification.

Noting the House ethics committee was responsible for resolving the confusion, Boehner lamented that Democrats had not given the panel more funding.

"The failure of the ethics committee to provide essential guidance to members in a timely manner has placed members seeking to advocate for much needed funds in a dangerous and untenable position," Boehner wrote. "I hope you will agree with me that this situation is completely unacceptable, and will take whatever steps are necessary to rectify it."

Pelosi spokesman Nadeam Elshami said the ethics committee was working on the problem.
I don't know. All this just doesn't seem too confusing to me. If you are elected to office, and you suggest a project be funded or a policy be adopted, then why should you seek to hide (or not reveal) any personal, and I mean "any" in the sense of any slight interest or connection, interest in the project? Well, I suppose I can think of one reason, eh? You don't want to be completely transparent because that would make it seem like your political work involves at least a little bit of corruption. So, I suspect corruption is afoot when members say they are confused about whether Congressional ethics rules require them to be transparent.

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