THE MOST CORRUPT MEMBERS OF CONGRESS“UNFINISHED BUSINESS”
Earmarking for personal gain. Skirting campaign finance laws. Adultery and sexual harassment.CREW has spent the past five years shining a spotlight on the extensive violations of the publictrust committed by members of Congress. After publishing five “Most Corrupt Members of Congress” reports, it’s clear that the system for holding accountable those members of Congresswho sacrifice the public interest for special interests is not working. Whether members takebribes, violate gift rules, or flout campaign finance regulations, those charged with enforcementlook the other way.Over the past five years, CREW has uncovered more than 425 instances of potential violations of ethics rules by no fewer than 56 members of Congress. Of those, 37 members have never beeninvestigated by any of the congressional ethics bodies, and 26 “Most Corrupt” members continueto serve in Congress. Because of that, this year, CREW is naming the House Committee onStandards of Official Conduct and the Senate Select Committee on Ethics to its “Most Corrupt”list, for standing by and allowing members of Congress to break the rules with impunity. Theconduct of the committees, as much as that of the members, reflects discreditably on Congressand undermines the integrity of that body at a time when the public already has little faith in itselected representatives. In fact, an August 2010 survey conducted by Rasmussen Reports foundthat “70% of U.S. voters believe most members of Congress are willing to sell their vote forcash” or campaign contributions.
Of the 56 members named as CREW’s “Most Corrupt” since 2005, the Senate Select Committeeon Ethics has investigated four members of the Senate, and the House Committee on Standardsof Official Conduct has investigated 15 members of the House. The House number includesseven referrals of “Most Corrupt” members sent to the House committee by the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE), which was created in 2008. Since then, OCE has referred a total of 26 members’ cases to the House ethics committee, recommending further review in 13 cases.The ethics committee dismissed all but two of those cases, finding no wrongdoing
From 2008through 2009, meanwhile, the Senate ethics committee conducted preliminary inquiries into 15cases and dismissed 12.The inaction of both the House and Senate ethics committees is shielded by the lack of transparency built into the ethics process. The committees work in secret, and all aspects of theirinvestigations remain confidential unless and until they issue a letter or report describing theirfindings. As a result, the public has no idea whether the committees are actively pursuingallegations of congressional misconduct.To the surprise of everyone – most particularly House members – the independent OCE hasproven far more aggressive than the House ethics committee ever has been. Although the OCEhas shown a willingness to pursue unethical conduct, it has too few tools at its disposal. Theoffice must contend with a 30-day time frame for preliminary investigations, a lack of subpoena