Remember when congresswoman Nancy Pelosi became House Speaker and she held press conferences about “draining the swamp” that was Washington D.C. under Republican leadership. Pelosi was going to let the sunshine in. Her ascent was a new beginning in the era of openness and transparency.

As part of that, Pelosi proposed creation of an independent ethics watchdog to sweep aside the “culture of corruption” that prevailed under Republicans. She said: “The new Office of Congressional Ethics is essential to an effective ethics
process in the House…This bipartisan board of outside experts who will be charged with reviewing allegations of misconduct and making recommendations to the House Ethics Committee. With the creation of the Office of Congressional Ethics, we bring a new element of transparency and accountability to the ethics process.”

While hardly an Inquisition (the OCE has recommended dismissal of many cases including John Murtha’s) twenty members of the Congressional Black Caucus, including its chairwoman, are asking the House to severely restrict the powers of the OCE.

The Black Caucus is essentially asking that the findings of the OCE be kept private. So much for sunshine, huh?

According to the NY Times, the OCE has (coincidentally?) recently spent much of its first full year investigating accusations of wrongdoing among black caucus members.

A resolution introduced late last week by Representative Marcia L. Fudge, Democrat of Ohio, and co-sponsored by 19 other black caucus members, would prohibit the release of most investigative reports prepared by the Office of Congressional Ethics. It would also prevent the office from initiating its own inquiries, unless a sworn complaint was filed by an individual with personal knowledge of the alleged wrongdoing.

The changes are merited, Ms. Fudge said, because the ethics office, known as the O.C.E., has taken up frivolous investigations that have unfairly damaged the reputation of House members.

Norman J. Ornstein, an ethics expert at the American Enterprise Institute said the bill would gut the OCE rendering it completely impotent. He said the efforts of the congressional Black Caucus “is a pretty good working definition of chutzpah.”

I love that quote.

Haven’t read anything yet about the odds of this going through. It might just be a shot across the bow of the OCE saying that if you come after us we’ll come after you -kind of like how Bill Clinton treated Ken Starr.

If it does pass, expect that it will be buried deep in some other mammoth legislation.