Thursday, June 3, 2010

What Happened to Transparency, Lacy?

If you were not paying attention, you may not have heard about this. Apparently, a new resolution has been submitted by half of the Congressional Black Caucus that would change the rules of the Ethics Committee.

On May 28th, Rep. Marcia Fudge, D-Ohio, and 19 fellow Congressional Black Caucus members quietly introduced House Resoltion 1416, right before the Memorial Day weekend, that would limit the powers of the new independent Office of Congressional Ethics.

The Office of Congressional Ethics was formed by Congress in 2008 and is run by a panel of private citizens. The office, which doesn't have the power to sanction lawmakers, essentially serves as an advisory board to the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct. The House Standards Committee is run by lawmakers who are charged with policing their peers.

The citizen-run Office of Congressional Ethics is far more open than the notoriously secretive Congressional Standards Committee. The Ethics Committee publicizes its referrals to the Standards Committee even when the Standards Committee finds no violations.

Fudge's proposal would remove that power, and allow lawmakers on the Standards Committee to seal from public view the ethics office's findings on matters deemed meritless. Also, the resolution would make it harder for the Ethics Committee to initiate investigations, requiring a sworn complaint from a citizen claiming personal knowledge of an alleged violation. This change could prevent complaints from watchdog groups as well as investigative bloggers.

Another interesting tidbit is, it would prevent the Standards Committee from taking a referral from the Ethics Committee within 60 days before an election in which the subject of the case is a candidate. It does not specify if Primary Elections count or if it only a general election. If primary elections count, this means that a Congressman or Congresswoman would be void of jurisdiction for 120 days out of the 730 days of their elected cycle or roughly 1/6th of their term.

So what does any of this have to do with Lacy Clay? He appears to be one of the members that signed on to this resolution. A copy of this bill can be found HERE.

Why would Lacy Clay support a bill like this? Is he fearful that people are on to him and his shenanigans? Is he afraid of a Congressional body investigating his cozy relationship with the Rent-to-Own and Payday Loan groups? Or is he concerned about the large campaign payments he has made to his sister's law group? Is he fearful that something may come out during his divorce proceedings? Is he fearful that one of his competitors has something on him that could be used to muddy the waters of his re-election campaign? You have to wonder.

Stay tuned. With everything else going on in Lacy's world, this could get interesting.

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