WASHINGTON -- Muriel Bowser may have the toughest job of anyone in the D.C. government. The District of Columbia councilmember, who oversees the committee that is supposed to deliver a comprehensive ethics-reform package before the end of the year, is pressing ahead amid a regular drumbeat of bad ethics headlines coming from her colleagues at the Wilson Building, some who are also offering reform legislation in an attempt to clean up the mess.
"What I am committed to making sure that we're actually filling gaps in our law," the Ward 4 Democrat said in an interview on WAMU-FM's "Politics Hour." "We have a lot a ethics rules and regulations on the books. A lot of the things that people are concerned about -- whether these allegations of election fraud, or campaign-finance irregularities, or if someone misused money -- these are things that are against the law. We don't need a transformation of the law to address these things … What we need is enforcement of the law."
Currently, there are nine bills on ethics reform that have been introduced and plenty of councilmembers who know full well that their headline-gawking conduct of the past few months will be a campaign issue during next year's city elections and beyond.
D.C. Council Chairman Kwame Brown (D), whose 2008 campaign is being investigated by the U.S. attorney for campaign-finance irregularities, has said he wants a new ethics bill through the council by the end of the year. Bowser, meanwhile, said she hopes Government Operations Committee hearings on the various proposals will begin next month, with the first scheduled for Oct. 12.
Alan Suderman, in his Washington City Paper Loose Lips column, wondered what this all will accomplish:
Passing a dead forest’s worth of bills within a reasonable amount of time might go a ways towards repairing the Council’s public image. But would it actually stop repeat transgressions in the future? After all, there are already laws against some of the things that people like [Ward 5 Councilmember Harry] Thomas have been accused of doing. Maybe what D.C. needs isn’t just better laws—it’s better councilmembers.
That's a sentiment shared by The Washington Post's Colbert King. The columnist wrapped up his weekend column with this appeal: "Help wanted, D.C. Council: Spectacles need not apply."
Bowser, who won a special election to fill Adrian Fenty's ward seat after he was elected mayor, is up for re-election next year and is already facing challenges from a slate of candidates. One of them, Max Skolnik, has already jumped on the ethics-reform bandwagon, accusing Bowser of not acting more quickly on getting legislative review started. "The Council reorganized the committee chairs in July," Skolnik said in a media advisory earlier this month. "Even with the city government in the hot-seat due to ethical and legal challenges, the Committee on Government Operations is just getting around to initial information gathering and review in October."
So if you're sick of hearing about ethics, tough luck. Get ready for months of continued ethics drumbeat.
WATCH: Muriel Bowser on WAMU's "Politics Hour"
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