Republicans are gleeful over the possibility that two prominent Democratic members of Congress, Reps. Charles B. Rangel of New York and Maxine Waters of Los Angeles, could face high-profile ethics "trials" this fall, just in time for the November elections. The party line was summed up on "Fox News Sunday" by House Minority Leader John A. Boehner: "[House Speaker] Nancy Pelosi said four years ago that it was time to drain the swamp…. But the fact is, she has not kept her promise. The swamp is alive and well." Actually, the actions against Rangel and Waters are proof that Pelosi is doing just what she said she would.
Two years ago, with heavy backing from Pelosi and concerted opposition from Boehner, the House created the Office of Congressional Ethics, which is staffed by professional investigators and overseen by a six-member, independent board chosen by the majority and minority leaders. Its job is to examine allegations of corruption by members of the House and make recommendations to the Ethics Committee for further investigation. But its most important function is to improve transparency by releasing the results of its probes to the public — thus pressuring the Ethics Committee to take action. In February it put out a 329-page report alleging that Rangel violated House disclosure rules on corporate-sponsored travel, and on Monday it released a 79-page summary of its findings on Waters.