Dec. 8, 2006
Foley Report Shows House Ethics Process Is a Cover-Up, Makes Clear the Need for Independent Ethics Monitor
Statement of Joan Claybrook, President of Public Citizen
The House ethics committee spent 100 hours interviewing members of Congress and congressional staff, taking sworn testimony about inappropriate advances to male pages made by Rep. Mark Foley (R-Fla.). Yet the committee’s 90-page report, released today, fails to point a finger at anyone.
House ethics rules are very broad and provide that any member, officer or staff shall conduct themselves “in a manner that shall reflect creditably on the House.” Other ethics clauses require any person in the government to “expose corruption wherever discovered.” These are solemn obligations to ensure that members of Congress and staff will preserve the integrity and dignity of the institution and expose wrongdoing.
Part of this clear obligation is to bring potential ethics violations to the attention of the appropriate authorities – in this case, the whole House page board and the House ethics committee. While the committee’s investigation makes clear that no one alerted either the board or the ethics committee of concerns about Rep. Foley’s advances to pages, the report lets all of those investigated off the hook for this utter abdication of their duty to an ethics process.
The committee has the power to issue public reprimands and to assess civil fines, among other sanctions. It did none of this; instead, its recommendations dither about operational details of the congressional page program, calling for, among other trivialities, better education of members about the “role of pages in the House.”
This report is an insult to the American public and makes it clear that the ethics process is almost irretrievably broken. The only workable fix is to create an independent ethics monitor to investigate violations on Capitol Hill.