When a governing body such as the D.C. Council tackles ethics reform, it's a sign that lawmakers have failed the public trust. What's an elected representative to do? The obvious public relations fix is to pass a new set of laws. Brilliant.
It doesn't matter what's contained in the ethics reform bill being proposed by D.C. Council Chair Kwame Brown and Mary Cheh. The simple fact that Brown faces serious campaign ethics violations makes this one of the most ridiculous attempts at legislation in recent memory.
Thank goodness someone in the D.C. government has stood up to point out how silly it all looks. Attorney General Irvin Nathan deserves credit for going before the council and testifying how the Cheh/Brown bill falls way short. His court action against Ward 5's Harry Thomas Jr. also sent a message that finally, someone is going to work to hold these elected officials accountable.
Nathan has also made the rounds on some of the local talk shows. Good. That's what a real public servant should do. Call these people out publicly. Take legal action where necessary. Irvin, where have you been all my life?
Seriously, let's count the number of District politicians who have faced ethics probes in recent years. Besides Thomas and Brown, there's Vincent Gray and Jim Graham, or rather his chief of staff. That's about HALF of the council for goodness sakes. When are these people going to wake up and smell the subpoena?
There's been a lot of talk lately of how residents feel the city is reverting back to the Marion Barry era of politics. It's an argument spurred on by the media, and there's really no truth to it. The truth is, this type of unethical behavior never went away.
Taking advantage and skirting the law for one's own benefit is part of the culture here in the nation's capital. Many have been able to walk the straight and narrow, but so many others revert to taking the easy way out and there's no amount of legislation that will ever change their behavior, because they're cheaters.
Ethics aren't contained in a law you can pass. Sure, you can create new guidelines for the sake of liability and appearance, but these lawmakers all know what's morally right and what's morally wrong. For the D.C. Council, there's no going back to class to pass Ethics 101.