Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Babysitting Congress - Citizen Outcry Helps Preserve Ethics Rules 

this is an audio post - click to play

As Mike Allen of the Washington Post reports, House leadership has backed off part of its plan to weaken House ethics rules.

A little background: this past November, in response to a Texas grand jury investigation into the illegal laundering of corporate campaign contributions by two political action committees closely connected to House Majority leader and bigtime rainmaker Tom DeLay, House Republicans voted to end a rule requiring criminally indicted members of the House to resign their leadership positions. Yesterday, responding to outcry from citizen groups and members of the House from both parties, DeLay and House Speaker Hastert asked their colleagues to restore the rule.

The same folks also backed off another proposal which would have ended the ability of the House to rebuke its members for actions which, even though not illegal or technically against House rules, still brought discredit upon the House. However, they kept a proposal designed to make it much harder to get ethics complaints investigated.

So, with one ethics-gutting proposal still pending, the people have gone two for two so far on preserving some accountability from their elected officials, although it is unclear whether the House leadership would have backed off its proposals if a Texas official had not announced that DeLay would probably not be indicted.

While it comes as no surprise to this citizen that some politicians tried to play loosey-goosey with the public trust, it would be nice if we had a system where our elected officials didn't have to be minded like newly-walking toddlers. Regardless, yesterday's developments show that occasionally, when people take the time and make the effort to speak out, this democracy thing actually works.

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