DeLay indictment underscores rampant culture of corruption in Washington

Congressional leaders must set higher ethical standards

The events of the past month have shaken our faith in government, and its ability to respond in fundamental ways. Today’s indictment of House Majority Leader Tom DeLay and the ethical clouds hanging over Sen. Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) and others reinforce in the strongest possible way the need for fundamental reform and a new respect for ethics in government.

“For too long, concerns about conflict of interest, cronyism, and indifference to integrity in government have been dismissed as something only good government groups care about. Members of Congress routinely push the envelope to get around the rules and face no repercussions. The House Ethics Committee, in particular, has been loath to exercise its serious oversight duties,” said Common Cause President Chellie Pingree.

But the aftermath of two hurricanes has made clear that good government, and a system that honors ethics and integrity, is vitally important to the well-being of all of us.

Much needs to be done. It is not enough that DeLay, indicted for conspiring to violate campaign finance laws, has temporarily stepped down from his post as the Number Two Republican in the House.

Congress, and the House in particular, should take this as an opportunity to set higher ethical standards for the politicians who are in positions of power and influence.

Common Cause calls on the Congressional leadership to reverse the culture of corruption that has been fostered in Washington in recent years: reform and strengthen the House Ethics Committee, choose leaders who respect the laws and rules that govern politics in this nation, and set a standard for carrying out the political business of this nation that ensures that government is able to respond to its citizens and is worthy of their trust.