Congressional Ethics and Race: A Quiz

QUESTION ONE: If you are the House Ethics Committee, and you find that investigations of two prominent House members have resulted in convincing evidence of serious wrongdoing and ethics violations, and they both are African-American, the most ethical course is to:

A. Bring charges against them anyway.

B. Bury the charges against one, and find a white House member to charge.

C. Announce that both investigations were “inconclusive.”

D. Consult the Congressional Black Caucus about what to do.

ANSWER: A. To alter how the cases are handled because of the race of the two House members would be unfair and irresponsible.

QUESTION TWO: The Congressional Black Caucus, as indicated by its persistent support of former African- American Rep. William Jefferson, who was videotaped accepting a bribe and who was found to have $90,000 in his office freezer, is primarily interested in…

A. Maintaining the integrity of the U.S. Congress.

B. Serving the needs of the American people.

C. Ensuring that its members uphold a high standard of conduct for African-American elected officials with dignity, honor and honesty.

D. Protecting its members’ positions and influence, no matter what.

ANSWER: D. This is why the Caucus, when it realized that many of its members were at risk of ethics charges because of credible allegations, sought to weaken the House ethics enforcement process.

QUESTION THREE: CREW, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a  government ethics watchdog group, has long included Rep. Maxine Waters and Rep. Charles Rangel on its list of the most corrupt members of Congress because…

A. It is a racist organization.

B. It is a conservative Republican group that aims to discredit Democratic leaders in Congress like Rangel and Waters.

C. The unethical acts of Rangel and Waters were so egregious that CREW couldn’t ignore them and maintain any credibility whatsoever.

D. It has unreasonably high standards regarding ethical conduct.

ANSWER: C. CREW is a liberal leaning operation that criticizes conservative white Republicans far more often than any other category of politician, because its ideological bias results in liberal politicians getting the benefit of any doubt. Rangel and Waters have received CREW criticism because in their cases there is no doubt.

QUESTION FOUR: The fact that several U.S. Senators have engaged in the same unethical conduct—using their positions to raise money for institutions bearing their names—that is one of the thirteen ethics violations engaged in by Rep. Rangel without being sanctioned means that…

A. The practice isn’t unethical.

B. Rangel is being unfairly singled out because of his race.

C. No charges should be brought against anybody for this conduct, ever.

D. The Senate needs to start enforcing its own ethics rules.

ANSWER: D. The failure of the Senate to police its members reflects badly on that body, but in no way makes Rangel’s actions more acceptable, or enforcement of the rules against them less important.

QUESTION FIVE: CNN Sunday host Don Lemon asked Rev. Al Sharpton, “Do you think that black members are being targeted unfairly by the Ethics Committee?” The correct answer is:

A.  “Well, I think that we’ve got to really look at what is going on here, and as people have said to the African-American community, we shouldn’t rush to judgment that it’s racial, and we shouldn’t. They shouldn’t rush to judgment that they’re guilty, because there’s been allegations. You must remember, Don, we heard a lot of allegations around the Illinois governor, Blagojevich, as it related to the only black in the U.S. Senate, Roland Burris. We’re at the end of Blagojevich’s trial- it’s going to the jury- and have heard little of even Burris’s name and he said he won’t run again. Same with New York Governor David Paterson, one of two black governors- a lot of allegations- he says he’s not running again- all of sudden, we find at least one of the major investigations- they find nothing wrong. So, if you begin to see a pattern of people being called on, being investigated- allegations- they end up [finding] nothing, one would be very naive not to say- well, wait a minute, why should we rush to judgment, particularly when you have Charlie Rangel…who has done so much for his district and the country- and Maxine Waters- and we’ve already seen two high-profile black leaders hit heavy by the media, and then nothing is there.”

B. “Of course not. If a House member violates ethics rules, by definition that House member is not being targeted unfairly.”

C. “African-Americans are only 12% of the population, so if more than 12% of  ethics charges against House members are against African-Americans, that means that those black House members are being targeted unfairly.”

D. “Sure: everyone knows the Democratic Party is out to get black people.”

ANSWER: A. Just kidding! This is what Sharpton answered, which is double-talk. The facts of Rangel’s various violations, which include the failure (by the Congressman who oversees tax legislation) of Rangel to pay taxes, have never been in doubt. The only question has been whether the Ethics Committee would simply ignore clear violations, as it has too frequently in the past.  The right answer is B.

QUESTION SIX: What is wrong with this statement, by Politico editor John Harris to MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell: “…What has happened to Congressman Charlie Rangel is that the – sort of the ethical standards of the institution, both the specific rules and the expectations, change over time. Remember Charlie Rangel came into the Congress as a reformer….so things that he considered unexceptional, in fact, become objectionable under the new standards.”

A. Makes sense to me!

B. The House ethics rules never have permitted what Rangel has done. They just weren’t enforced.

C. Corrupt behavior isn’t justified just because it is done with confidence that there will be no negative consequences.

D. The standards of what is corrupt and what is not have not changed one bit. Tax evasion has always been unethical; accepting favors and enrichment from constituents has always been unethical; abuse of power and position has always been unethical.

ANSWER: B, C and D.

2 thoughts on “Congressional Ethics and Race: A Quiz

  1. Will we ever get past the race-baiting and racialism that dominates our political discourse? I thought President Obama’s election was supposed to banish that kind of nonsense forever. Instead, matters seem worse.

    Everybody in America, regardless of race, knows that the things that Rangel is alleged to have done, if true, are unethical. If Waters did indeed use her official position to help a bank in which her husband had a vested interest, this is what we have come to call, “the appearance of impropriety,” and at the very least deserves closer scrutiny. Apparently, that scrutiny resulted in charges by the ethics watchdogs.

    The Congressional Black Caucus is represented on the ethics committee. Rep. G.K. Butterfield of North Carolina, a white male, is serving both on the ethics committee and as secretary of the CBC. Don’t ask me how this works, because I was under the impression you had to be black to be in the Congressional Black Caucus, but apparently not anymore. The conspiracy theorists among us might suspiciously think that he serves in this capacity to ensure the CBC is apprised of what is going on in the ethics committee, but … nah …

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.