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EDITORIAL: Colbert before ethics

Rangel trial takes back seat to comic farce

- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Democratic leaders would rather waste time with comedian Stephen Colbert than uphold the ethics of Congress. With the refusal of the House to hold ethics trials for Rep. Charles B. Rangel, New York Democrat, and Maxine Waters, California Democrat, the arrogance and impudence of Nancy Pelosi's speakership is on full display.

California Democratic Rep. Zoe Lofgren, who invited and hosted Mr. Colbert's ridiculous Sept. 24 testimony, is the chairman of the House ethics committee who nixed demands for the trials of her two Democratic colleagues. Both are charged with financial improprieties that bring disrepute on Congress. Mrs. Waters is accused of using undue influence to benefit a bank for which her husband was a board member and "significant invest[or]." Mr. Rangel is accused of 13 violations ranging from tax avoidance to improper fundraising.

The committee made its official charges against both in midsummer. The Rangel investigation has stretched more than two years. There is no reason why the trials can't proceed. Yet Ms. Lofgren, obviously fearful of further embarrassments for her party before the elections, continues to interfere with the course of justice.

On Sept. 28, all five Republicans on the ethics committee joined a statement by ranking Republican Jo Bonner of Alabama that blasted Ms. Lofgren's inaction. Mr. Bonner, a sober, serious institutionalist, is no partisan bomb-thrower. He noted that in past Congresses, members returned to Washington during recesses to "conclude pressing ethics matters." These Republicans insist October is perfect for the trial because no other legislative business would interfere. "After months of trial preparation," they wrote, "Chairwoman Zoe Lofgren should have already issued notices of public trial schedules." Even Mr. Rangel and Mrs. Waters have asked in public for the trials to be expedited. (Who knows what they say in private?)

Ms. Lofgren remains unmoved. Her standards are nothing if not bizarre. In the Colbert matter, even the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, radical Detroit Rep. John Conyers Jr., asked her not to let the comedian testify live, but she - as chairman of the relevant subcommittee - insisted. Perhaps that was because she answers to the call of Speaker Pelosi, who said that "of course" Mr. Colbert's testimonial shtick was "appropriate" and "great." There likewise can be little doubt that Ms. Lofgren would heed the call of her fellow California liberal, Mrs. Pelosi, if she wanted to see justice pursued.

The thumbs up to Mr. Colbert's comedic routine and thumbs down to serious ethical charges show, beyond a doubt, that ethics really are a joke in Mrs. Pelosi's Democratic Congress.

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