We Need Sarbanes-Oxley for Congress!

The big news story of the day is the revelation that dozens of Congressmen are under investigation by the Ethics Committee:

House ethics investigators have been scrutinizing the activities of more than 30 lawmakers and several aides in inquiries about issues including defense lobbying and corporate influence peddling, according to a confidential House ethics committee report prepared in July.

The report appears to have been inadvertently placed on a publicly accessible computer network, and it was provided to The Washington Post by a source not connected to the congressional investigations. The committee said Thursday night that the document was released by a low-level staffer.

I’ve read dozens of posts on this subject to day and so far not one has mentioned the observation that was my immediate reaction: these are the people who are responsible for privacy and security legislation.

What privacy and security policies were in place? Was personally identifiable information secured? Whose responsibility was it to see that the policies were enforced? Were there compensating controls in place in the absence of strict compliance with the policies? My guess is that there were just a few guidelines, left to the discretion of individual staffers to follow.

It also seems to violate a cardinal rule of good business practice: don’t put junior staff in a position where they’re effectively formulating policy.

IIRC one of the provisions in the famous “Contract With America” of 15 years ago was that Congress would impose no regulations that it didn’t impose on itself as well. That’s beginning to rise to the top of my list of desireable constitutional amendments.

4 comments… add one
  • PD Shaw Link

    Except in what real world setting are people ultimately in charge of investigating themselves? If they were serious about ethics, Congress would appoint an independent investigator to do the work, like a Pete Fitzgerald.

  • Sam Clemens:

    There is no native American criminal class. Except Congress.

  • steve Link

    The military, physicians and police come to mind, but the most obvious group would be lawyers. This has been a real problem in Pennsylvania.


  • In theory all of the traditional professions are supposed to be self-policing. As the professional model gives way to the retail model this has become increasingly problematic.

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