There are numerous instances where the FECís general counsel found reason to believe the law had been violated, and the Republican commissioners ignored the law and refused to act. If this sounds like a joke, itís because it is, and Stephen Colbert has been riding it to ratings gold on a regular basis.
This might paint a bleak picture about modern Washington. Yet, with any luck, the tide can be turned: The DOJ could take a tougher line against corruption, President Barack Obama could fix the FEC by replacing the squatting commissioners, and the OCE could be properly funded, be given subpoena power and have its jurisdiction extended to the Senate.
Politicians who understand they will be held accountable for their conduct are more likely to meet the high ethical standards we have a right to expect from our elected officials.
Melanie Sloan is executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.
On January 3, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., raises her right hand as her son Henry messes up her hair while Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., delivers the ceremonial swearing-in in the Old Senate Chamber. Gillibrand's other son Theodore, lower right, looks on.
Each year since 1990, CQ Roll Call has reviewed the financial disclosures of all 541 senators, representatives and delegates to determine the 50 richest members of Congress. This year's report, derived from forms covering the calendar year 2012, shows it took a net worth of $6.67 million to crack the exclusive club.