This past February the New York Times ran an intriguing story by Eric Lipton and Eric Lichtblau on the fundraising prowess of the Congressional Black Caucus. The story described the activities of the CBC and suggested that the CBC’s fundraising prowess might involve some shady dealings. It was an eye-opening story.
This week the Times followed up with a story on the efforts of 20 members of the CBC to restrict the powers of the independent ethics office that has spent much of its first full year investigating accusations of wrongdoing among black caucus members. The Times reported that CBC member Marcia Fudge had introduced a resolution co-sponsored by 19 other CBC members to prohibit the release of most investigative reports prepared by the Office of Congressional Ethics. The resolution also provided that the OCE was to be prevented from initiating its own inquiries, unless a sworn complaint was filed by an individual with personal knowledge of the alleged wrongdoing.
What is the source of the problem? The OCE has conducted several investigations involving CBC members who should have known that their activities ran afoul of House Ethics Rules. One can see how that would make the OCE a troublesome body. A spokesman for the House speaker Nancy Pelosi, who lobbied other members to create the office, said she had no comment on the proposal by Rep. Fudge.
Now we learn that Rep. Fudge has a personal issue with the OCE. The office found that her top aide impmnroperly helped CBC members take a free Caribbean trip that was funded by corporations.
Rep. Fudge has reacted in a manner consistent with the resolution on which the Times reported earlier this week. She has introduced legislation to restrict disclosure of investigations by the OCE and require it to have a sworn complaint from a citizen with personal knowledge of alleged wrongdoing before initiating a probe.
It’s an interesting story deserving of coverage beyond Rep. Fudge’s district. Indeed, I am quite sure that if Rep. Fudge were a Republican, the story would be getting all the attention it deserves right about now.
Via Professor James H. Steiger.
UPDATE: Today’s Washington Post devotes an editorial to the story.
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