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Ethics Probes Only Focus on Black Lawmakers

November 5, 2009
WASHINGTON - SEPTEMBER 24:  Rep. Carolyn Cheek...
Image by Getty Images via Daylife

As you know, I have posted recently about the inequities in the political parties and the laws governing our state of Michigan, but I have also found that the racial disparities and inequities carry over to the national level in ethics investigations:

The House ethics committee is currently investigating seven African-American lawmakers — more than 15 percent of the total in the House. And an eighth black member, Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.), would be under investigation if the Justice Department hadn’t asked the committee to stand down.

Not a single white lawmaker is currently the subject of a full-scale ethics committee probe…

A document leaked to The Washington Post last week showed that nearly three dozen lawmakers have come under scrutiny this year by either the House ethics committee or the Office of Congressional Ethics, an independent watchdog created in 2008 at the insistence of Pelosi. While the list contained a substantial number of white lawmakers, the ethics committee has not yet launched formal investigative subcommittees with respect to any of them — as it has with the seven African-American members…

Another CBC member said black lawmakers are “easy targets” for ethics watchdog groups because they have less money — both personally and in their campaign accounts — to defend themselves than do their white colleagues. Campaign funds can be used to pay members’ legal bills.

“A lot of that has to do with outside watchdog groups like [Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington] that have to have a level of success to justify OCE,” the CBC member said. The good-government groups were strong backers of the OCE’s creation.

But these same groups won’t go after Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.), this lawmaker claimed, “because she has plenty of money to defend herself,” and the outside groups don’t want to take a risk. The Democrat said the ethics committee would be going up against Harman’s lawyers and “going up against” the powerful American Israel Public Affairs Committee if they push the OCE to pressure the ethics committee to act.

Harman was allegedly recorded on a 2005 federal wiretap discussing with an Israeli operative her bid to become Intelligence Committee chairwoman. Harman has denied any wrongdoing, but an attempt by the ethics committee to get a transcript of the taped call was rebuffed by the Justice Department.

What especially galled black lawmakers was that the ethics committee voted to move forward with the Waters and Richardson probes following the OCE referrals, while Graves — who OCE also thought should be investigated by the ethics committee — saw his case dismissed.

Even worse, the ethics committee issued a 541-page document explaining why it wouldn’t look into allegations that Graves invited a witness to testify before the Small Business Committee — on which he sits — without revealing his financial ties to that witness.

“It is kind of crazy,” said an aide to one senior black Democrat. “How can it be that the ethics committee only investigates African-Americans? It doesn’t make sense.”

Really, none of it makes sense, but then again, when it comes to racism, nothing is sensible.  There is no justification for racism.  The Ethics Committee gets the Asshole Business Award of the week, first for only investigating by skin color and second for trying to cover that shit up.

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