By Dee Newman
As always, voters have plenty of reasons to feel frustrated and angry, but House ethics reform should not be one of them. Back in 2007 when the public voted the GOP leadership out, in part, because of their tolerance for unethical conduct, the new Democratic speaker, Nancy Pelosi, promised to clean the House, to crack down on corruption. And, that is exactly what she has done. A new Office of Congressional Ethics was created, House Rules were reformed, and every case before the bi-partisan rules committee has been impartially conducted free from any interference from the Speaker.
The pursuit of ethics investigations of two prominent Democrats during an election year should emphatically indicate that she meant it. However, since ethics charges were brought by the committee against Representatives Maxine Waters and Charles Rangel, the Republican spin has been to the contrary. In spite of the fact that neither Waters nor Rangel have been convicted of anything, Republicans (with help from the media) have tried to portray the Speaker as a failed leader, suggesting that the Democratic Party is rife with corruption.
Republican efforts to portray Democrats as corrupt serve them in two important ways. First, though the Republican framing is false, it creates a negative narrative and image of Democrats, influencing public opinion to vote against the party in power. Second, it distracts the voting public from the Republican’s own past (the Tom Delay and Jack Abramoff scandals) and present ethical issues – including the two House members who have already resigned, as well as, the possible criminal investigation by the FBI of Republican Senator John Ensign’s extramarital affair with the wife of his once friend and administrative aid.
I say – let justice be served and served swiftly. Representatives Rangel and Waters should have the opportunity to face their accusers before the November election. At this point they are innocent until proven guilty. They both deserve a fair trial. Despite the Republican spin, Democrats should be unafraid of the truth and its consequences. Cracking down on corruption should never be used to politically destroy anyone. We should all be wary and suspicious of those who hold their political interests above truth and justice, whether we are Democrats or Republicans.