The following editorial appeared in Sunday's Washington Post:
No one has ever accused the House ethics committee of being a zealous enforcer of the lax House rules that are in its keeping. The history of the panel -- and some would say, its purpose -- is that whenever it can, it looks the other way. That's the context in which its letter of reproval the other day to Rep. Bud Shuster, chairman of the mighty Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, has to be read.
The reproval was a negotiated settlement -- a slap on the wrist in return for Shuster's formal admission that the charges against him were true. It saves both him and the committee the embarrassment of further proceedings. But the admission, which Shuster sought to minimize and wriggle out of even as he made it, was damning. The bottom line: The committee remains a patsy, and so does the House for which the committee speaks -- but Shuster has been identified as a wanton abuser of his office and the public trust.
The bipartisan panel unanimously found that he had "brought discredit to the House," no easy thing to do. His chief of staff, Ann Eppard, resigned when he became chairman of the committee after Republicans won control of the House in 1994; and she set up as a lobbyist. The transportation committee controls the expenditure of billions of dollars a year. Eppard was paid by clients to wield her influence with her former boss; he knowingly allowed that to occur, the committee determined, thereby creating at the very least the appearance that his official decisions had been "improperly affected."
The committee found as well that Shuster had accepted sizable gifts in violation of House rules -- "The American people should not be made to question whether, through gifts or favors, the public interest has been subordinated to those with business before the House," it wrote.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.