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 public trust 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 Congress who sacrifice the public interest for special interests is not working. Whether members take bribes, violate gift rules, or flout campaign finance regulations, those charged with enforcement look 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 been investigated by any of the congressional ethics bodies, and 26 “Most Corrupt” members continue to serve in Congress. Because of that, this year, CREW is naming the House Committee on Standards 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. The conduct of the committees, as much as that of the members, reflects discreditably on Congress and undermines the integrity of that body at a time when the public already has little faith in its elected representatives. In fact, an August 2010 survey conducted by Rasmussen Reports found that “70% of U.S. voters believe most members of Congress are willing to sell their vote for cash” or campaign contributions.
Of the 56 members named as CREW’s “Most Corrupt” since 2005, the Senate Select Committee on Ethics has investigated four members of the Senate, and the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct has investigated 15 members of the House. The House number includes seven 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 2008 through 2009, meanwhile, the Senate ethics committee conducted preliminary inquiries into 15 cases and dismissed 12.