Watch for tomorrow’s editorial hoping for a higher ethical tone from the new Democratic majority in Congress, a hope kindled by Nancy Pelosi’s ethical package.
Congressional ethics (is that an oxymoron?) is always a rich topic. It brings to mind such thoroughly bipartisan follies and outrages as Ways and Means Chairman Wilbur Mills antics – while in his 60s – with Argentine stripper Fanne Foxe, and the double-feature sex scandal of 1983 in which Massachusetts Democrat Gerry Studds and Illinois Democrat Dan Crane were both exposed as having preyed on 17-year-old pages – male and female, respectively.
Strange to tell, the U.S. House of Representatives actually has an official code of conduct. One of its provisions suggests that lawmakers should refrain from committee business if they have been convicted “of a crime for which a sentence of two or more years’ imprisonment may be imposed.” Presumably an impending sentence of, say, 18 months, would be OK.
Another provision bars a lawmaker from maintaining someone on a congressional payroll “who does not perform official duties commensurate with the compensation received.”
There’s a story behind this. Old-timers will remember Wayne Hays, Ohio Democrat and chairman of the House Administration Committee, who in 1976 was found to have placed a mistress 30 years his junior, Elizabeth Ray, on the payroll of his committee. (This while he was divorcing his wife of 38 years and marrying yet another nubile secretary). Ray famously admitted, “I can’t type. I can’t file. I can’t even answer the phone.”
Presumably she had other talents that recommended her to the honorable Mr. Hays.