Sound of Two Hands Being Slapped

From North Dakota to Connecticut, the Senate has spoken: Nobody benefited, so no wrong was done.

After a year-long investigation, the committee told Dodd and Conrad that it found “no substantial credible evidence” that they had violated the Senate’s ethics rules. The committee found that the senators’ loans were processed through a special, controversial program, but that they did not appear to profit financially from it.

Right. Didn’t they receive special consideration that they would not have if they didn’t get into the Friends of Angelo program?

Countrywide VIPs, Feinberg told the committees, received discounts on rates, fees and points. Dodd received a break when Countrywide counted both his Connecticut and Washington homes as primary owner-occupied residences — a fiction, according to Feinberg. Conrad received a type of commercial loan that he was told Countrywide didn’t offer.

Here’s the thing, senators, representatives and others who work in government are quite aware of their power — perceived and actual. To avoid any appearance of impropriety, they should have insisted that they receive precisely the types of deals which were available in the market to people who were not particular friends of anyone. If I pay market rates for any goods or services (including any secondary benefits) then no one should have any reason to believe that I am using my influence, whether overtly or covertly, to gain an advantage.

Perhaps it is time that the ethics committee’s rules were investigated to see if they meet the reasonableness test.