Ethics Trials May Help, Not Hurt, the Democrats

Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), August 8, 2010 | Go to article overview

Ethics Trials May Help, Not Hurt, the Democrats


Democrats will "drain the swamp of Washington" if they win control of the House. So promised California Rep. Nancy Pelosi before the 2006 election that led to her becoming Speaker of the House.

Now that two Democratic reps have been charged with serious ethical lapses, a chorus of Republican operatives is accusing Pelosi of breaking that vow. Our political prophets have largely picked up the tune. A difficult midterm election for Democrats has just become tougher, they say with near unanimity.

But suppose these predictions are off by 180 degrees. Suppose voters see these trials as evidence not of an unattended swamp, but of murky waters being drained. The Office of Congressional Ethics, which Pelosi helped create, is leading the charge. And even the most hardened partisan can't believe that all the bad behavior happens across the aisle.

That the Democrats under the microscope -- New York Rep. Charles B. Rangel and California Rep. Maxine Waters -- are both black only underscores the seriousness with which the Democratic leadership supports a new set of standards for conduct. African-Americans comprise an important Democratic voting bloc.

For the record, Rangel and Waters both deny any wrongdoing. Same goes for Republican Sen. John Ensign of Nevada, who is also under investigation, by the Senate Ethics Committee and the Justice Department. (Ensign's case includes payoffs related to an extramarital affair.) All three assert that their alleged misdeeds amounted to nothing more than congressional business that everyone does.

Rangel, for example, is accused of doing expensive corporate favors in return for a hefty donation to the Charles B. Rangel Center for Public Service at City College of New York.

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