Lawmakers may fail when it comes to ethics, but they try

I winced upon reading the results of The Hill’s poll that found “(m)ore than two-thirds of voters think the ethical standards of politicians have declined over the past generation” and that a majority think they are “unethical” (“HILL POLL: Politicians, Congress unethical — and getting worse,” June 13). The poll’s findings were disappointing, as I know members of Congress are more ethical than portrayed in the media, and much more ethical than decades ago. (I also would quibble with the timing of the poll. After the last few weeks, putting Congress up for an ethics test with the American public is a little like asking someone to enter a beauty contest after 15 rounds with Mike Tyson.)

I started on Capitol Hill as a reporter 25 years ago and have seen a dramatic shift in ethics in Congress over the decades … for the better. Until 1989, members of Congress could receive cash payments as honoraria for speeches. For example, a chair of a powerful committee one year took in more than $200,000 from groups with interests before the committee. Lavish junkets to exotic locations occurred. (Nearly all congressional trips these days are packed with work.) Even parking tickets in D.C. could be “fixed” by the House Sergeant at Arms.


My organization has worked closely with members of Congress and staff for more than 30 years and found nearly every lawmaker and staffer we’ve worked with to be dedicated public servants, striving for the good of their constituents. Of course there are ethical lapses in Congress, just as there are in any field, including journalism. But that’s not the whole story.

While D.C. was “atwitter” over certain congressional tweets last week, here’s what you missed. One member helped a nonprofit raise funds for breast cancer research; another hosted a session with federal agencies to help flood victims in his state; and a third member went to bat for the family of a Vietnam War veteran who was denied death benefits.

This is the Congress I know and see every day, filled with members spending their time trying to do right by the American people.

Washington, D.C.

Hispanics are trending
toward GOP column

From Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee

A recent editorial by my colleague Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) (“Listen to Hispanic voters on reforms to immigration law,” June 14) wrongly accuses me and the Republican Party of spreading “diehard anti-immigrant rhetoric.” Not only is this claim offensive, it is incorrect. Unfortunately, amnesty supporters often turn to name-calling when they don’t have the facts on their side.

Pro-rule-of law policies are not mean-spirited; they are the foundation of the United States. We have the most generous legal immigration system in the world, admitting one million immigrants each year. But illegal immigration puts a strain on our economy, schools and hospitals and even poses serious national security threats. Enforcing all of our laws — including immigration law — is critical to our success as a nation. 

Time and again, American voters — including Hispanics — have defeated amnesty attempts, including the 2007 comprehensive immigration reform legislation. My colleague seems to dismiss the idea that Hispanics like law and order, too. 

As recently as last November, Hispanic voters showed they share Republicans’ fundamental values of patriotism, rule of law, freedom, family, support for small businesses, jobs and education.

Contrary to the claims made by some, the record shows that Republicans will continue to attract Hispanic voters, and more Republican Hispanic candidates will be elected to public office. Perhaps that’s what really worries Rep. Grijalva.

Washington, D.C.

Tech jobs can help bridge unemployment gap

From Todd Thibodeaux, 
president and CEO of CompTIA

While the president’s focus on Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education is an important way to attack unemployment (“Obama outlines high-tech jobs program,” June 14), career and technical education are equally critical components of directing students to stable, high-demand career paths, such as those in the IT sector.

CompTIA research shows that despite the overall state of the economy, there are between 400,000 and 600,000 open IT jobs. However, 80 percent of U.S. HR executives say it’s challenging to find the right candidate with the required skill set to fill their openings. Technical training and certification can help bridge this gap, providing instruction to help workers find jobs in a robust and growing IT sector — whether they are new to the workforce or making a career change — and give employers confidence that candidates have what it takes to get the job done.

It’s important to look beyond traditional colleges and large, high-tech companies when confronting the issue of job creation. Small IT businesses raise the productivity and efficiency of hundreds of thousands of other businesses, while providing the flexibility to innovate, test and implement new technologies. CompTIA and its 2,500-plus IT member companies look forward to working with America’s leaders to help get the country back to work.

Washington, D.C.