OPEN GOVERNMENT -- "Here’s a suggestion: open the doors and let Americans witness the
workings of the House Ethics Committee," writes Liz Peek for Fox News. "If being stripped naked and
flayed in full view of your countrymen is the appropriate way to
investigate Ed Liddy, a decent man trying (for free) to safeguard the
taxpayers’ interest in AIG—why isn’t it the best way to question New
York’s Charles Rangel about his real estate holdings, or to ask
Nevada’s John Ensign about his alleged payments to his former paramour?"

Why do the ethics committees of both the House and the Senate
operate in such luxurious secrecy while members of Congress get to
preen before C-SPAN as they excoriate Fed Chair Ben Bernanke or Morgan
Stanley CEO John Mack? Just as Congress seems to have the sweetest deal
on health insurance, they also get a free pass on accountability. My
guess is that one or two open-door hearings into dishonest tax
accounting or improper payoffs would do a lot to clean up Washington.
At the least, it would be highly entertaining.

The process of internal policing, undertaken in the House by the
Committee on Standards of Official Conduct and in the Senate by the
Select Committee on Ethics, is considered a joke. If a politician wants
to evade scrutiny, but telegraph that his heart is in the right place,
he tells his constituents “I asked to be investigated by the Ethics
Committee”, which, according to Ken Boehm of the National Legal and
Policy Center, is akin to asking to be thrown into the briar patch. In
other words, a welcome outcome for one and all.

*****

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has promised to “guarantee the highest
ethical conduct and a more effective and transparent ethics process.”
She has been hard pressed to fulfill that pledge since for the first
eight months of the new Congress, under her leadership, the top staff
position on the Ethics Committee was not filled.

They finally did choose a director, Blake Chisam, who was part of
the search committee, a staffer for the committee chair, and someone
who has filed for personal bankruptcy not once but twice—just the
sort of responsible and independent person you’d like in this position.


I believe that Americans across the board are sickened by such
antics. Though several members of Congress are proud veterans of the
“most corrupt” list, many have been defeated, been forced to resign or
have gone to prison. I am convinced that open hearings into Congress’
transgressions would be a powerful antidote to the insulting charade of
self-governance.


Nancy Pelosi has said she will “open the ethics process up to the
participation of our fellow citizens.” I applaud this pledge, and
suggest that she might start right now. Open the windows, Mrs. Pelosi,
and let in some fresh air.