Renzi, Doolittle, proof that Congress still needs independent ethics enforcement

The House of Representatives showed this week why Congress needs independent, outside ethics enforcement.

While the House Ethics Committee remains silent, Rep. Rick Renzi (R-AZ) in recent days has resigned from two congressional committees after being linked to the ongoing controversy over fired US attorneys. He is also reportedly considering resigning from the House after coming under federal investigation for a land swap deal and a raid on a business owned by his wife.

In addition, Rep. John Doolittle (R-CA) stepped down from his seat on the House Appropriations Committee this week after it was learned the FBI raided his home. Again, as all this unfolded, the House Ethics Committee has remained silent.

“The evidence cannot be clearer: Congress is still an ethics-free zone where it cannot prevent abuses of power by its members,” said Jon Goldin-Dubois, executive vice president of Common Cause. “Both houses of Congress have taken some steps this year toward ending this sad record. But Congress has failed to seriously consider an independent entity to monitor the ethical behavior of its members.”

Congress badly needs an independent ethics mechanism to curb members’ abuses of power. The current peer review system simply does not work. This sad saga will only end if the ethics task force led by Rep. Mike Capuano (D-MA) embraces an independent ethics entity, and if both houses of Congress includes it in the lobbying and ethics reform bill awaiting action by the House.