In the wake of the scandal involving disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff, congressional leaders vowed two years ago to get tough on ethics violations. The House set up an independent ethics office and the Senate established tough new regulations.
Yet, as the New York Times recently reported, not a single member of Congress "has been censured, the toughest punishment short of expulsion, despite a number of recent scandals involving sexual impropriety, financial dealings and conflicts of interest."
So, in the public interest, HuffPost is launching a congressional ethics clock to note the number of days (and hours and minutes and seconds) it's been since a potential ethics violation has been probed or brought to the attention of Congress's self-appointed watchdogs.
UPDATE 10/30:The Washington Post reports that more than 30 members of the House are under ethics investigation related to defense lobbying and corporate influence peddling and that Rep. Sam Graves (R-Missouri) has been cleared of any wrondgoing by the House ethics committee. As a result, Graves is being removed from HuffPost's Congressional Ethics Clock
REP. CHARLES RANGEL (D-N.Y.)
On September 24, 2008, the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct voted to establish an investigative subcommittee to look into Rangel for failing to report hundreds of thousands of dollars in personal assets on congressional disclosure forms. That probe has since been expanded several times to include other alleged improprieties.
SEN. JOHN ENSIGN (R-Nev.)
On June 24, Citizens for Ethics and Responsibility in Washington (CREW) filed a complaint against Ensign to the Senate Ethics Committee related to payments he made to his mistress's husband. Ensign's troubles deepened earlier this month when the Times reported on the senator's efforts to help his mistress's husband obtain lobbying work yet the husband has yet to be contacted by the ethics committee.
REP. JOHN MURTHA (D-Penn.)
The legendarily acerbic Congressman, who was named as an unindicted co-conspirator in the Abscam bribery scandal in 1980, has long been slammed by watchdog groups for his propensity to insert earmarks to secure millions for defense contractors in his district. On June 11, 2009, the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct revealed it was looking into Murtha and Rep. Pete Visclosky (D-Indiana) and their ties to the PMA Group, a lobbying firm raided by the FBI in November 2008.
In addition, there are ongoing ethics committee investigations into Sen. Roland Burris, Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., and Rep. Maxine Waters, among many others - the House committee alone is probing at least 30 GOP and Democratic lawmakers.