Excerpted from Wednesday's Miami Herald:
Democrats in Congress are wringing their hands in dismay because two prominent colleagues in the House of Representatives have been accused of using their clout to promote their own selfish interests, in violation of House rules. Instead of worrying, they should celebrate.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi famously promised to "drain the swamp" back in 2006 when Democrats successfully campaigned against corruption in the Republican-led Congress. She formed the Office of Congressional Ethics two years later to show she meant business.
Now, the charges filed against Reps. Charles Rangel of New York and Maxine Waters of California are putting her promises to the ultimate test — public ethics trials against members of her own party at a time when the GOP is hoping to recapture control of the House. Backing down at this point would send the wrong message. There is no better way to make the point that ethical lapses will not be tolerated than to follow through with these trials instead of reaching a settlement that would amount to a slap on the wrist. The charges against both members are serious enough to warrant trials. Both of them argue that their actions are merely business as usual on Capitol Hill, a defense that will find little support with a public that is disgusted precisely because much of what passes for customary procedure in Congress doesn't pass the smell test.
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Open trials against sitting lawmakers on ethics charges will do little to improve the public perception that Congress is a corrupt and dysfunctional branch of government, but in the long run this may be the only way to improve its standing in the eyes of voters.