Black lawmakers under ethics spotlight

by Zenitha Prince
For New Pittsburgh Courier

WASHINGTON (NNPA)—All seven of the full-scale ethics investigations currently under way in the U.S. House of Representatives are focused on African-American lawmakers, and it would be eight if the committee conducting the investigations hadn’t deferred to the Justice Department’s investigation involving Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.

The disparity is beginning to raise some eyebrows.

“I don’t think they (Black lawmakers) are scared—they’re upset. They think [Congressional Black Caucus] members are being singled out,” said Rep. Elijah Cummings, former chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus.

“I can’t say there is an agenda behind this—I just don’t know,” Cummings said. “But when you have 435 members of Congress and the only ones under full-scale investigations are CBC members, it makes you wonder.”

California Democrats Laura Richardson and Maxine Waters became the latest CBC members to fall under official ethical scrutiny. The Committee on Standards of Official Conduct on Oct. 29 announced its decision to probe allegations that Richardson failed to report real estate and income in her financial disclosure forms, and received preferential treatment from a lender in the foreclosure/loan modification agreement for her Sacramento home.

Waters, chief deputy whip and member of the powerful Financial Services and Judiciary committees, has drawn more press attention. The panel said it is reviewing a possible conflict of interest in her request that then-Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson meet with the National Banker’s Association. The organization represents minority-owned banks such as OneUnited Bank, in which Waters’ husband owned stock and previously served on the board of directors.

Lester Spence, an associate professor of political science at Johns Hopkins University, said caucus members may be targeted for ethics probes because their violations are less egregious and easier to prove.

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