01/05/09 — Ethics 101, again: Senate is about to open -- perhaps lesson is needed

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Ethics 101, again: Senate is about to open -- perhaps lesson is needed

In all fairness to President-elect Barack Obama, finding out less than desirable information about one of your Cabinet nominees is not exactly something new.

There have been plenty of others on both sides of the aisle who have had to either explain, defend or deny accusations and others who have had to remove their names.

Of course, the latest removal, New Mexico Sen. Bill Richardson, is surprising primarily because it is a concern that Obama's people already knew about and an investigation that started in late summer.

Analysts say that the questions about Richardson's fundraising were just too much to handle in conjunction with the Illinois Senate seat debacle.

But what is really surprising about not only these questions and others nominees have faced over the years is why anyone who is under investigation for a shady deal would have the gall to think it would not matter in his or her pursuit of one of these pivotal posts.

Richardson says he did nothing illegal -- usually that means it might have been sticky, but nothing anyone can actually find a law against -- so perhaps he thought he had nothing to worry about in the nomination process.

But there is a solution -- one that could be reviewed as the next session of Congress opens. Ethics.

The best way not to face scrutiny is to do what you know is right -- even if there is a loophole to support the other option. No fancy negotiations, no questionable dealings -- it is simple -- do what is right.

So far that call has fallen on deaf ears in statehouses, governor's mansions and the Capitol. There are still public officials who do not seem to understand the term "ethics" let alone how to apply it.

Perhaps a review and some public outcry just might make this year's lesson stick -- and speed up future nomination processes.

Published in Editorials on January 5, 2009 10:35 AM