5/20/2005

Ignorant congressmen

Chi Trib’s Rudolph Bush has worth-reading page one story, “Rush, Gutierrez plead ignorance of travel rules,” about which a few points:

He says in third graf:

The fact that they didn't file for a number of years and don't remember receiving reminders of the rule raises questions about the House's internal enforcement and the seriousness with which the chamber takes its ethics rules, analysts said.  (Italics added here and throughout)

But he quotes only one so-called analyst, the veteran liberal activist Fred Wertheimer (husband of Linda the NPR hostess), identifying him simply as “of the watchdog group Democracy 21,” not identifying Democracy 21, whose web site is much about nailing Tom De Lay — though for this story Wertheimer, of Common Cause fame, has no blame to cast on fellow lib-Dems Rush & Gutierrez, only on those who didn’t catch them:

"One of the problems here has been lax oversight of the rules. It's clear that one of the reforms that is essential is to strengthen the role of the [ethics] committee and the House in overseeing and enforcing its rules."

Meanwhile, Bush tells us

The other 19 members of the Illinois delegation were aware of the rule and regularly sent their travel disclosure forms, but Gutierrez's files from 1997 to 2005 were all but empty, while Rush's contained disclosures for several staff members but not for the South Side congressman himself. The House passed its travel disclosure rule in 1995.

Rush & G were not aware of the rule, however, and the rest of the story is their self-exculpation on various grounds, as this from G:

"I'm very unhappy and upset that my senior staff never filed any disclosure forms,"

leaving us to wonder, on a scale of one to ten, where does this unhappiness of his rank with Bush’s asking him about his travel vouchers in the first place?

As for Rush, he

took a somber tone about his failure to follow House rules, although he has yet to file travel disclosures for himself. He said he expects to make a complete filing by month's end.

As do we taxpayers expect him to do but are not holding breath.

Main thing is, nobody told them about it:  There was “lax oversight,” said Wertheimer the DeLay pursuer.  Rush “wondered why he never received any notice.”  "No one knew that was the rule,” said Gutierrez.

A small voice is raised at the end of the story, however, to provide miniscule relief from this pity-the-poor-Congressman theme: 

Though neither Rush nor Gutierrez received any reminders from the clerk, not knowing the rules isn't an excuse, said William Canfield, former general counsel for the Senate Ethics Committee.

"It's sad. You're supposed to know the rules if you are a member," he said.

Way at the end.  Better late than never.

2 comments:

cal skinner said...

Shouldn't hurt Gutierrez' mayoral ambitions, considering Harold Washington had been convicted on income tax evasion, hadn't he?

cal skinner said...

Shouldn't hurt Gutierrez' mayoral ambitions, considering Harold Washington had been convicted on income tax evasion, hadn't he?