Outside monitor of ethics deserves genuine authority

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) reports that House leaders are “working on” the specifics of a proposal to involve an outside group in the body’s ethics process (“Pelosi committed to allowing outside groups to file ethics complaints,” June 1). But if some concepts that have been aired in the media are accurate, they need to work on the problem a bit harder.

It appears that while new rules might allow non-members to file ethics complaints against members (a welcome change), the outside panel (whose composition still is undefined) might have authority only to screen complaints and pass them on to ethics committee members — not to have any real say in the validity of those complaints.

If that’s true, the body is worthless. Members of the independent panel also should sit with the ethics committee as it hears the cases and ensure the integrity of the process. In that case, the independent panel could become the “seal of approval by the public” that ethics committee members have reached an appropriate decision in each case.

Also disturbing are reports that the outside panel would be comprised of two appointees from the majority party and two from the minority — an almost certain promise of political gridlock. Having five members should be a no-brainer.

The Ethics Resource Center recently recommended to members of the special House task force studying this concept that Congress, at the very least, create a panel with the independence to assure that citizens’ worst expectations are not met.

Ethical standards are established at the top of any group. Leaders — including those in Congress — can and must do more than make rules; they also must live and operate in an ethical way every day as an example to the people around them. It’s time for Congress to demonstrate leadership on ethics, beginning with an acknowledgement that self-regulation has inherent limits and that lawmakers would benefit from meaningful outside assistance.

~ From Patricia Harned, Ph.D., president, Ethics Resource Center, Washington


Morris casts invites to GOP Suicide Party

Dick Morris is wrong on the immigration bill (column, “Republicans should back immigration compromise,” May 23). This bill should be retitled as the Republican Party Suicide Bill. It will be just another citizenship giveaway like the 1965 and 1986 bills, and the enforcement provisions will be totally under-funded and totally ignored by the following administrations whether they are Democrat or Republican. This illegal immigration problem is here by willing design of both parties, particularly our President Bush. My God, look at the costs of this bill — some $85 billion a year as per the Heritage Foundation.

… Our government has flatly refused to secure our borders, nor have they made any serious attempt at imposing employer sanctions or the expeditious deportation of apprehended illegals, even though there are plenty of laws available that allow them to do so. … Look at the latest Rasmussen poll: The vast majority of voters want border security first, not more fake promises of later enforcement. If this abomination is passed, the Republican Party will be the minority party for decades to come, and deservedly so.

[Opposing the bill is]  about the only issue I can think of that might possibly permit the Republican Party to regain majority status.

Otherwise, if the bill passes, enjoy the Republican Party Suicide Party. They will deserve it. I’m not coming.

~From Robert Quinn, Haines City, Fla.