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.
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.
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.