Forget the fascinating range of ethics programs at the local level. It is congressional
ethics programs that get the national attention. And with all this attention, what Congress does, and fails to do, has a great effect not
only on what happens at the local level, but also on the rhetoric
When Congress self-administered its own ethics, every council or county
commission member could say that if self-regulation is good enough for
Congress, it's good enough for them. Only legislative bodies, the
rhetoric went, can oversee legislators.
When Congress recently set up the semi-independent Office of
Congressional Ethics, and the OCE actually took its job seriously, this
gave heart and ammunition to good government groups seeking the
independent, transparent investigation of possible ethics violations.
It's no accident that the last couple of years have been very active
years in local government ethics reform, and that ethics
self-regulation appears self-serving.
The headline in Eliza Newlin Carney's Rules
of the Game column for the National Journal yesterday
sums up what
often happens when a legislative body creates a truly effective ethics