Playing Politics with Ethics: Lots to Report

"The House ethics committee is back in business," according to The Hill today.

It was reported that Committee Chair Doc Hastings (R-WA) and Ranking Member Alan Mollahan (D-W.Va.) have reached an agreement over staffing the committee, an impasse that has rendered the committee useless for several months.

No details of the "deal" were made available, but Mollahan predicted the committee will be fully staffed in three weeks and operational when Congress returns from its August recess after Labor Day. Once the committee is "functional" again, they are expected to launch an investigation of Republican Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX).

We use the term "functional" loosely here. It has become apparent from the rules changes, custom-made committee appointments, and lack of activity that the ethics committee has become a largely toothless entity and is not capable of effectively investigating DeLay.

Speaker Dennis Hastert must appoint an outside counsel to restore Americans' confidence in the House of Representatives.

In other news...

In a blatant attempt to save face, Chair of the House Administration Committee Bob Ney (R-OH) sent a letter to the House clerk, instructing that he only accept electronically filed lobbying reports starting in 2006.

Ney explained to colleagues that the "unprecedented move" would decrease staff time spent processing paperwork and would make the House more accountable and transparent to the public, The Hill reported today.

Ney, who has been tied to scandals involving Jack Abramoff and Tom DeLay, said that 10% of lobbying disclosures were filed electronically last year.

Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.) said the move does not “resolve or absolve the pay-to-play process” that goes on in inside Congress. “Overall it is a good step, but by no means does it finish the journey.”