Are Black Lawmakers Targeted by the House Ethics Committee?

Okay, here are the numbers. Seven black members of the House of Representatives are the subjects of full blown probes by the House Ethics Committee. No white lawmakers have active probes underway at this time.

Zoe Lofgren, Chair House Ethics Committee
Zoe Lofgren, Chair House Ethics Committee

There would be eight, but the Justice Dept. asked the committee not to go forward with its investigation of Cong. Jesse Jackson Jr. That translates to 15% of the Congressional Black Caucus. Which leads to some loaded questions a lot of people won’t want to confront.

Maybe this breaks out in three possible scenarios. One, black lawmakers are the targets of ethics investigations based on race. Trust me, no one, not even the lawmakers caught up in this, will say so publicly for fear of being accused of using the dreaded “race card”.

Scenario number two, a higher percentage of black elected officials, at least the ones in Congress, are more corrupt than their white counterparts. No one in their right mind buys this (though few who aren’t might). And finally, some may argue its just the luck of the draw, that black lawmakers are the targets now, but white lawmakers will level the playing field down the road.

The committee itself muddied the waters by moving forward with two of the three cases referred to it by the newly minted Office of Congressional Ethics. This raised a few eyebrows because the cases turned into investigations were those of California Congresswomen Maxine Waters and Laura Richardson, both of whom are black. It may come as no surprise that the case that was dismissed was against Missouri Congressman Sam Graves, who is white.

Cong. Laura Richardson
Cong. Laura Richardson

Five other black members of Congress are facing scrutiny. Cong. Charles Rangel is the most publicized of the five, given his chairmanship of the Ways and Means Committee. Reps. Donald Payne, Carolyn Kilpatrick, Bennie Thompson, and Delegate Donna Christensen from the Virgin Islands are the others. All are being probed about whether corporate funds were improperly used to pay for their trips to the Caribbean to attend a trade conference.

Some of you may have read about a document leaked to the Washington Post that showed nearly three dozen House members are being looked at either by the Ethics Committee or the Office of Congressional Ethics. That list had a number of white lawmakers on it, but none have faced full blown investigations but the black members mentioned above.

So what does all this mean? The House Ethics Committee isn’t talking, but one thing needs to be said. There is nothing wrong with asking whether a series of actions has a tinge of racial motivation. The answer may well be no, but for a lot of folks, if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck…….

What do you think? Are black lawmakers being unfairly targeted for ethics investigations?

BTW, as for Tuesday’s voting, I’ll write about that tomorrow.

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When Will Republicans Start Acting Like Grownups?

Somebody ought to tell the Republicans in Congress they no longer are in the majority.

It’s as if everything they do (or don’t do) should capture the rapt attention of the American people. John Boehner, the House minority leader, says his GOP colleagues will come up with a healthcare reform proposal soon.

How soon? Soon.

What’ll be in it? Don’t ask.

One thing’s for sure. Boehner says the 46 million people who don’t currently have health insurance shouldn’t hold their breath waiting to be covered under this new GOP plan.

And then, the Party of No goes even further. While the country’s focus has been on healthcare, the GOP has been trying to undermine any climate change legislation that might turn up in the House or Senate. Some of them think the whole concept of global warming is a hoax. So they do what comes naturally. They threaten. Ranking Republicans on six Senate committees crafting a climate change bill want additional studies done before they vote on any bill.

If they don’t get their way, according to Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe, ranking Republican on the Environment and Public Works Committee, they’ll boycott any proceedings. Inhofe is one of those who doesn’t believe in global warming. That should tell you in a nutshell what Senate Republicans’ real agenda is. They want to study climate change to death.

Never mind the Environmental Protection Agency did an exhaustive study of the problem. That isn’t good enough for the Party of No. I guess President Obama must have gotten rid of some of those EPA folks from the Bush years. You know, the ones who allegedly altered reports that called global warming an important issue. To her credit, the chair of the environment committee, Sen. Barbara Boxer, vows to press on with or without her infantile colleagues from across the aisle.

Barbara Boxer
Barbara Boxer

This should be an abject lesson to those Democrats in Congress who find common cause so often with the GOP. These people aren’t interested in any form of bipartisanship. They’ve shown it time and time again. Those who step out of line are branded traitors, or worse. If only the party in power could see its way clear to vote as a disciplined block, we might start to see the change we’ve been looking for.

Until then, do we really have to put up with Republican Senators like Pat Roberts, who asked for a 72 hour delay in considering the healthcare reform bill so lobbyists could have their say? Or James Inhofe, who hides behind the mask of wanting to study climate change when all he wants to do is kill any effort to cut greenhouse gases?

What in the world did we do to deserve this?

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Is This a Strange Election Season, or What?

Some notes from Election Season 2009 (in no particular order). President Barack Obama is acting like Tuesday’s gubernatorial election results in Virginia and New Jersey are some type of litmus test for his presidency. Maybe he’s been reading too many desperate newspapers, reading election polls, and watching too many cable talk shows.

President Barack Obama and NJ Governor John Corzine
President Barack Obama and NJ Governor John Corzine

He’s stumped for John Corzine in Jersey and Creigh Deeds in Virginia as if his life depended on it. Published reports say even the widest eyed optimist has given up the ghost for election results in Virginia. Deeds’ opponent, Bob McDonnell, has a double digit lead.

The New Jersey race has been too close to call heading into the home stretch. What makes election coverage of the Garden State race interesting is that in addition to the incumbent Corzine and challenger Chris Christie, there’s a third candidate, Chris Daggett, who could play spoiler.

U.S. Attorney Chris Christie
U.S. Attorney Chris Christie

That possibility led to the most bizarre event in the race so far. Former NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani injected himself into the race, supporting Christie and calling on Daggett to drop out. Daggett told Rudy to butt out of Jersey politics, but it’s interesting to hear the once and future candidate for something (anything!) telling another to follow his example (remember Rudy 2008?), and just give up.

Of course, one could question whether people in New Jersey have any interest at all in what’s going on in Virginia, and vice versa. That would tend to downplay the referendum on Obama theory, except the president seems to be keeping it alive. Oh well…..

The election update across the river in New York City, we’ve got a mayoral race where the incumbent is spending the mind boggling sum of $35,000 bucks an hour trying to win a third term. Mike Bloomberg may well do that, but he’ll forever be dogged by accusations he ignored the public will to run for a third term.

NY Mayor Michael Bloomberg
NY Mayor Michael Bloomberg

His opponent, Bill Thompson, is trailing in the polls by double digits. He also has the distinction of receiving a shout out from President Obama, angrily denying it constituted an endorsement, then running commercials saying he’s been endorsed by….President Obama!

NY City Comptroller, William Thompson
NY City Comptroller, William Thompson

And finally, there’s NY-23, which we wrote about in a previous blog. Much has happened since then. The Republican nominee for that congressional seat, Dede Scozzafava, Abruptly dropped out of the race over the weekend. Then she turned around and backed the Democrat in the race, Bill Owens. The conservative darling in the race, Doug Hoffman, has set off an endorsement frenzy, with every conservative this side of the late William Buckley falling over themselves to back him. They’re calling this a battle for the soul of the GOP.

If that’s the case, it’s a fight over slim pickings indeed.

I for one will be glad when this election cycle is over late Tuesday night. How about you?

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