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Thursday, July 15, 2010

NY Times reports that Chris Lee not likely to be admonished in ethics probe

By Sam Foster
Via NY Times
H/T Jill Terreri at Vote Up!

The dog and pony show that is the ethics investigation involving Chris Lee of NY's 26th Congressional District is said to be heading into a new phase.  However, it appears that the ethics panel itself has more explaining to do than the candidates.  So far the investigations have been kept confidential, but members of congress are already beginning to question the panel's investigation as overreaching.  The NY Times reports:

"This is really a redefinition of the law," said Kenneth Gross, a Washington ethics lawyer who is fielding some of the document requests from ethics investigators. "To pick eight members and say they voted on legislation and political contributions came in around this time is really going places that no regulatory authority has ever gone."

I myself pointed out the futility of the investigation in connection to Chris Lee.  It would be hard to prove that fundraising played a roll in Chris Lee's vote when he had been a vocal opponent to the legislation long before the vote came on December 10th.  Chris Lee even announced is support for an alternative piece of legislation.  

Yet the panel moves ahead in the investigations, into territory described as "aggressive." Although potentially pointless.  Opinion in Washington is that:

The independent ethics office, led by a former federal prosecutor, has clashed repeatedly with lawmakers on the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, who have accused it of over-reaching. Given this history, observers believe it is unlikely that the committee will admonish any members, even if the investigators recommend action.

As much as I distrust government officials and there propensity to immerse themselves in the Washington grind known as "business as usual" this ethics investigation is really indicative of poor infrastructure and organization of congressional ethics oversight.  Clearly congress needs to get the House in order and take a serious stab at defining ethics violations and the process in which investigations are to be carried out so that the taxpayers aren't paying a panel to spend 4 months "aggressively" investigating 8 congressmen in which their findings will be ignored.


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