WASHINGTON - With yesterday's "full disclosure," the House Bank scandal has come full circle, lumping sinners and sinless together in a final celebration of collective shame. Many members believe the House of Representatives has been unfairly disgraced, but in many ways it is a self-inflicted wound.
At first the House decided to investigate the bank, figure out what went wrong, expose the evildoers and protect everyone else. But after months of abuse on radio talk shows and fears that an outraged electorate would take vengeance at the polls, the members changed course and embraced "full disclosure."
It is neither "full" nor is it "disclosure." What was released is misleading and quite possibly inaccurate, having no other effect except to reaffirm public disgust with Congress and to require each member, yet again, to apologize, explain, make excuses or resign.
Yesterday, 211 days after the General Accounting Office issued its initial report on thousands of bank overdrafts, the House ethics committee released its latest - and perhaps final - list of 303 members and former members who wrote at least one bad check during the 39 months ending Oct. 3, 1991.
The GAO could easily have produced this list last year, long before the ethics committee investigation, long before New York Democratic Rep. Robert Mrazek (920 overdrafts) abandoned his Senate candidacy, long before Chicago Rep. Charles Hayes (716 overdrafts) lost his Democratic primary.
But the House chose to wait, because the list was flawed. And it is still flawed. With only names and numbers of bad checks, the list tells nothing about aggregate overdrafts or the size of individual overdrafts.
WARTS AND ALL
Many accounts suffered overdrafts because the bank was chronically late posting members' deposits; many "overdrafts" were actually unsigned or mangled checks; some overdrafts were blamed on the wrong House member. The ethics committee fixed some injustices, but not all. There was no time, acting Chairman Matthew McHugh, D-N.Y., said last week, and the committee was tired of stoking public outrage with fortnightly bits of scandal. It decided to publish everything it had left, warts and all.
Now everyone is tarred with the same ugly brush, and the myth that forever simmers in the public consciousness - that the House shelters 435 parasitic, fat-cat deadbeats - has received another shot of adrenalin. House members have a little more than six months to convince their constituents otherwise.
It did not have to be that way. When the GAO report first came out, the House could have created a list much like the one that appeared yesterday, sparing itself 6 1/2 months of humiliation. Instead, it voted to open an investigation to figure out what had happened.
THE BEST OF INTENTIONS
"I think it was a mistake born of good intentions," said Congress-watcher Norman Ornstein, a resident scholar at the conservative American Enterprise Institute. "The fear was that they would release all this information, and it would be faulty. Their desire was to step back, cull it and separate out those who abused and those who did not."
Early in the investigation, McHugh and his ethics subcommittee discovered several unpleasant truths: The bank had no written standards; hopeless accounting procedures made it impossible to determine when overdrafts occurred except by painstaking check-by-check reconstruction of individual accounts; the only existing "list" of "bad" checks, including overdrafts, was handwritten notations on the backs of the bank's daily tally sheets.
None of this was anyone's fault. For more than 100 years employees had treated the bank as a cottage industry, making up procedures as they went along. By 1991 the bank, in reality nothing more than a deposit and check-cashing facility for House members' paychecks, had become a mutant travesty of a modern bank.
In the end, the vast majority of those who wrote overdrafts got caught doing something that had been condoned for years. Rep. James Hansen, R-Utah, the ranking minority member of McHugh's ethics subcommittee, last week compared the bank to the 55 mph speed limit: Everybody violates it, but that does not make it right.
In the absence of any meaningful enforcement procedures, McHugh's ethics subcommittee had to set a standard, and eventually defined "abuser" as someone who had overdrawn his account by more than a month's salary during 20 percent of the months he or she had an account - eight months if the member held an account for the 39 months covered by the investigation.
The subcommittee proposed partial disclosure: release the names of the abusers and send a personal bank evaluation to any other member who asked for it. It was a solution that exposed some flagrant writers of overdrafts, but protected most members. It followed the House's wishes, and it was supposed to be fair.
No matter. Led by some ethics committee Republicans and encouraged by a group of Republican freshmen who had pressed for months for a complete accounting, the House began to demand "full disclosure." Never mind that full disclosure in most cases consisted only of the number of times a name appeared on tally sheets.
And after two days of rancorous meetings, the House agreed on a double-barreled approach: release the abusers' names and account information, wait at least 10 days, and release everyone else's name and number of bad checks. The vote on the resolution for full disclosure was 426 to 0.
Throughout the bank scandal, Democratic and Republican leaders have made much of the damage being done to "the institution," but at this juncture, it is difficult to find any examples of cooperation inside the House.
McHugh's ethics subcommittee had a handsome record of bipartisanship, but its integrity was badly compromised when details of 66 reconstructed accounts and names of 24 "abusers" were leaked to the press. The leaks prompted Rep. Joseph Early, D-Mass., one of 22 abusers eventually named, to denounce committee members who "ran like rats" rather than come to the House floor to face his wrath.
Democrats for some weeks found it fashionable to blame Speaker Tom Foley, D-Wash., for failing to find some way to ameliorate the suffering. Rep. John Bryant, D-Texas, suggested dumping Foley as speaker because "he refuses to be a political leader."
Republicans simply tossed Foley into a pot with all Democrats, whose 40-year dominance of the House, they said, had allowed the bank to run amok. Rep. Guy Vander Jagt, R-Mich., chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, at one point proclaimed himself "overjoyed" that "we have something that illustrates the corruption of the entire system."
Nobody is crowing now. With the release of "the list" - with its attendant bipartisan embarrassment - both parties have been spattered.
The public still does not know if any crimes were committed. The public still has only an imperfect idea of who is an abuser and who is not. And instead of pulling together, the members sneered and shouted at each other, pointed fingers and called each other names. The only thing collegial they did was vote unanimously to jump off a cliff.
-------------------------------------- HOUSE ETHICS PANEL'S BANKING LIST --------------------------------------
WASHINGTON - The House ethics committee yesterday named 303 past and present lawmakers with overdrafts at their members-only House bank.
Here is the list of current and past members and the number of overdrafts for each at the House bank. The list includes the names of the "abusers" identified by the House Ethics Committee on April 1, and the others with overdrafts whose names were released today.
"Abuser" is defined as someone who had overdrawn his account by more than a month's salary during 20 percent of the months he or she had an account - eight months if the member held an account for the entire 39 months covered by the investigation.
Abusers are in all-capital letters. Following the name is the party, the number of checks, and whether the member is retiring or seeking a higher office.
ALABAMA: Tom Bevill, D, 4; Glen Browder, D, none; Sonny Callahan, R, 9; Robert E. Cramer, D, 11; William L. Dickinson, R, none, retiring; Ben Erdreich, D, none; Claude Harris, D, none, retiring.
ALASKA: Don Young, R, 57.
ARIZONA: Jim Kolbe, R, none; Jon L. Kyl, R, none; Ed Pastor, D, none; John J. Rhodes, R, 32; Bob Stump, R, none.
ARKANSAS: Bill ALEXANDER, D, 487; Beryl Anthony, D, 109; John Paul Hammerschmidt, R, 224, retiring; Ray Thornton, D, 1.
CALIFORNIA: Glenn Anderson, D, 3, retiring; Anthony C. Beilenson, D, 5; Howard L. Berman, D, 67; Barbara Boxer, D, 143, Senate candidate; George E. Brown, D, 26; Tom Campbell, R, 4, Senate candidate; Gary Condit, D, 4; C. Christopher Cox, R, none; Randy Cunningham, R, 1; William E. Dannemeyer, R, 26, Senate candidate; Ronald V. Dellums, D, 851; Julian C. Dixon, D, none; Calvin Dooley, D, none; John T. Doolittle, R, none; Robert K. Dornan, R, none; David Dreier, R, none; Mervyn M. Dymally, D, 1; Don Edwards, D, 13; Vic H. Fazio, D, none; Elton Gallegly, R, 5; Wally Herger, R, none; Duncan Hunter, R, 399; Robert J. Lagomarsino, R, 3; Tom Lantos, D, none; Richard H. Lehman, D, 10; Mel Levine, D, none, Senate candidate; Jerry Lewis, R, none; Bill Lowery, R, 300, retiring; Matthew G. Martinez, D, 19; Robert T. Matsui, D, 25; Alfred A. McCandless, R, none; George Miller, D, 99; Norman Y. Mineta, R, 3; Carlos J. Moorhead, R, none; Ron Packard, R, 4; Leon E. Panetta, D, 12; Nancy Pelosi, D, 28; Frank D. Riggs, R, 3; Dana Rohrabacher, R, 8; Edward R. Roybal, D, 11, retiring; Fortney Pete Stark, D, 64; William M. Thomas, R, 119; Esteban Edward Torres, D, none; Maxine Waters, D, 5; Henry A. Waxman, D, 434.
COLORADO: Wayne Allard, R, none; Ben Nighthorse Campbell, D, none, Senate candidate; Joel Hefley, R, 3; Dan Schaefer, R, 6; Patricia Schroeder, D, 5; David E. Skaggs, D, 57.
CONNECTICUT: Rosa L. Delauro, D, none; Gary A. Franks, R, 7; Sam Gejdenson, D, 51; Nancy L. Johnson, R, 2; Barbara B. Kennelly, D, 60; Christopher Shays, R, 18.
DELAWARE: Thomas R. Carper, D, 3, gov. candidate.
FLORIDA: Jim Bacchus, D, 3; Charles E. Bennett, D, 4; Michael Bilirakis, R, none; Dante B. Fascell, D, 1; Sam Gibbons, D, none; Porter J. Goss, R, none; Earl Hutto, D, 1; Andy Ireland, R, 38, retiring; Craig T. James, R, none; Harry Johnston, D, 1; William Lehman, D, none, retiring; Tom Lewis, R, 8; Bill McCollum, R, none; Douglas "Pete" Peterson, D, none; Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R, none; E. Clay Shaw, R, none; Lawrence J. Smith, D, 161; Cliff Stearns, R, 9; C.W. Bill Young, R, none.
GEORGIA: Doug Jr. Barnard, D, 30, retiring; George Darden, D, 35; Newt Gingrich, R, 22; Charles HATCHER, D, 819; Ed Jenkins, D, none, retiring; Ben Jones, D, 7; John Lewis, D, 125.
Richard Ray, D, 1; J. Roy Rowland, D, none; Lindsay Thomas, D, 6, retiring.
HAWAII: Neil Abercrombie, D, none; Patsy T. Mink, D, none.
IDAHO: Larry LaRocco, D, none; Richard H. Stallings, D, 8, Senate candidate.
ILLINOIS: Frank Annunzio, D, none, retiring; Terry L. Bruce, D, 2, retiring; Cardiss Collins, D, 18; Jerry Costello, D, 1; John W. Cox, D, none; Philip M. Crane, R, none; Richard J. Durbin, D, 12; Lane Evans, D, 9; Tom Ewing, R, none; Harris Fawell, R, none; Dennis Hastert, R, 44; Charles A. HAYES, D, 716, retiring; Henry J. Hyde, R, 2; William O. Lipinski, D, 2; Robert H. Michel, R, none; John Edward Porter, R, 1.
Glenn Poshard, D, none; Dan Rostenkowski, D, none; Marty Russo, D, 4, retiring; George E. Sangmeister, D, none; Gus Savage, D, 4, retiring; Sidney R. Yates, D, 4.
INDIANA: Dan Burton, R, none; Lee H. Hamilton, D, none; Andrew Jacobs, D, 1; Jim Jontz, D, 4; Jill Long, D, 21; Frank McCloskey, D, 65; John T. Myers, R, 61; Tim Roemer, D, none; Phillip R. Sharp, D, 120; Peter J. Visclosky, D, none.
IOWA: Fred Grandy, R, none; Jim Leach, R, none; Jim Lightfoot, R, 105; David R. Nagle, D, 4; Jim Nussle, R, none; Neal Smith, D, 2.
KANSAS: Dan Glickman, D, 105; Jan Meyers, R, none; Dick Nichols, R, none; Pat Roberts, R, 4; Jim Slattery, D, 50.
KENTUCKY: Jim Bunning, R, none; Larry J. Hopkins, R, 83, retiring; Carroll Hubbard, D, 152; Romano L. Mazzoli, D, none; William H. Natcher, D, none; Carl C. PERKINS, D, 514, retiring; Harold Rogers, R, none.
LOUISIANA: Richard H. Baker, R, 6; James A. Hayes, D, none; Clyde C. Holloway, R, 10; Jerry Huckaby, D, 88; William J. Jefferson, D, 8; Bob Livingston, R, none; Jim McCrery, R, none; W.J. Tauzin, D, 5.
MAINE: Thomas H. Andrews, D, none; Olympia J. Snowe, R, 1.
MASSACHUSETTS: Chester Atkins, D, 127; Brian J. Donnelly, D, 70, retiring; Joseph D. EARLY, D, 140; Barney Frank, D, none; Joseph P. Kennedy, D, none; Edward J. Markey, D, 92; Nicholas Mavroules, D, 1.
John Joseph Moakley, D, 90; Richard E. Neal, D, 87; John Olver, D, none; Gerry E. Studds, D, 10.
MARYLAND: Helen D. Bentley, R, none; Beverly B. Byron, D, 6, retiring; Benjamin L. Cardin, D, none; Wayne T. Gilchrest, R, none; Steny H. Hoyer, D, 3; C. Thomas McMillen, D, none; Kweisi Mfume, D, 12; Constance A. Morella, D, none.
MICHIGAN: David Bonior, D, 76; William S. Broomfield, R, none; Dave Camp, R, 6; Bob Carr, D, 1; Barbara Rose Collins, D, none; John Jr. CONYERS, D, 273; Robert W. DAVIS, R, 878; John D. Dingell, D, 48; William D. Ford, D, 6; Paul B. Henry, R, 20; Dennis M. Hertel, D, 547, retiring; Dale E. Kildee, D, 100; Sander M. Levin, D, none; Carl D. Pursell, R, 17, retiring; Bob Traxler, D, 201.
Frederick S. Upton, R, 1; Guy Vander Jagt, R, none; Howard Wolpe, D, 8, retiring.
MINNESOTA: James L. Oberstar, D, 2; Timothy J. Penny, D, 7; Collin C. Peterson, D, none; Jim Ramstad, R, 5; Martin Olav Sabo, D, none; Gerry Sikorski, D, 697; Bruce F. Vento, D, 3; Vin Weber, R, 125, retiring.
MISSISSIPPI: Mike Espy, D, 191; G.V. "Sonny" Montgomery, D, none; Mike Parker, D, 13; Gene Taylor, D, 14; Jamie L. Whitten, D, none.
MISSOURI: William L. CLAY, D, 328; E. Thomas Coleman, R, none; Bill Emerson, R, 6; Richard A. Gephardt, D, 28; Mel D. Hancock, R, none; Joan Kelly Horn, D, 1; Ike Skelton, D, 9; Harold L. Volkmer, D, 1; Alan Wheat, D, 86.
MONTANA: Ron Marlenee, R, 20; Pat Williams, D, 66.
NORTH CAROLINA: Cass Ballenger, R, none; Howard Coble, R, none; W.G. Hefner, D, none; Walter B. Jones, D, 63, retiring; H. Martin Lancaster, D, 5; J. Alex McMillan, R, 4; Stephen L. Neal, D, 7; David E. Price, D, 8; Charles Rose, D, none; Charles H. Taylor, R, none; Tim Valentine, D, 5.
NORTH DAKOTA: Byron L. Dorgan, D, 98, Senate candidate.
NEW HAMPSHIRE: Dick Swett, D, 1; William H. Zeliff, Jr., R, none.
NEW JERSEY: Robert E. Andrews, D, none; Bernard J. Dwyer, D, 10, retiring; Dean A. Gallo, R, 2; Frank J. Guarini, D, none, retiring; William J. Hughes, D, none; Frank Pallone, D, none; Donald M. Payne, D, 6; Matthew J. Rinaldo, R, 8; Robert A. Roe, D, 6, retiring; Marge Roukema, R, 5; Jim Saxton, R, 2; Christopher H. Smith, R, none; Robert G. Torricelli, D, 27; Dick Zimmer, R, none.
NEW MEXICO: Bill Richardson, D, 6; Steven Schiff, R, 1; Joe Skeen, R, none.
NEW YORK: Gary L. Ackerman, D, 111; Sherwood L. Boehlert, R, 1; Thomas J. Downey, D, 151; Eliot L. Engel, D, 21; Hamilton Fish, R, none; Floyd H. Flake, D, 3; Benjamin A. Gilman, R, none; Bill Green, R, 10; George J. Hochbrueckner, D, 49; Frank Horton, R, 3; Amo Houghton, R, none; John J. LaFalce, D, none; Norman F. Lent, R, none; Nita M. Lowey, D, 1; Thomas J. Manton, D, 17; David O'B. Martin, R, 8; Raymond J. McGrath, R, 4; Matthew F. McHugh, D, 1; Michael R. McNulty, D, 15; Susan Molinari, R, 5; Bob MRAZEK, D, 920, retiring; Henry J. Nowak, D, none; Major R. Owens, D, 48; Bill Paxon, R, 96; Charles B. Rangel, D, 64; James H. Scheuer, D, 133; Charles E. Schumer, D, none; Jose E. Serrano, D, 7; Louise McIntosh Slaughter, D, none; Stephen J. SOLARZ, D, 743; Gerald B.H. Solomon, R, 20; Edolphus TOWNS, D, 408; James T. Walsh, R, 34; Ted Weiss, D, 3.
NEBRASKA: Bill Barrett, R, none; Doug Bereuter, R, 39; Peter Hoagland, D, none.
NEVADA: James H. Bilbray, D, none; Barbara F. Vucanovich, R, 2.
OHIO: Douglas Applegate, D, none; John A. Boehner, R, none; Dennis E. Eckart, D, none, retiring; Edward F. FEIGHAN, D, 397, retiring; Paul E. Gillmor, R, none; Willis D. Gradison, R, 1; Tony P. Hall, D, none; David L. Hobson, R, none; Marcy Kaptur, D, none; John R. Kasich, R, none; Charles J. Luken, D, none; Bob McEwen, R, 166; Clarence E. Miller, R, none; Mary Rose OAKAR, D, 213; Michael G. Oxley, R, 6; Donald J. Pease, D, none, retiring; Ralph Regula, R, 14; Thomas C. Sawyer, D, none; Louis Stokes, D, 551; James A. Traficant, D, none; Chalmers P. Wylie, R, 515, retiring.
OKLAHOMA: Bill Brewster, D, 2; Mickey EDWARDS, R, 386; Glenn English, D, 1; James M Inhofe, R, none; Dave McCurdy, D, 8; Mike Synar, D, 11.
OREGON: Les AuCoin, D, 83, Senate candidate; Peter A. DeFazio, D, none; Michael J. Kopetski, D, none; Robert F. Smith, R, none; Ron Wyden, D, none.
PENNSYLVANIA: Lucien Blackwell, D, none; Robert A. Borski, D, 33; William F. Clinger, Jr., R, none; Lawrence Coughlin, R, 1, retiring; William J. Coyne, D, none; Thomas M. Foglietta, D, none; Joseph M. Gaydos, D, 3, retiring; George W. Gekas, R, none; William F. GOODLING, R, 430; Paul Kanjorski, D, 7; Joe Kolter, D, none; Peter H. Kostmayer, D, 50; Joseph M. McDade, R, none; Austin J. Murphy, D, 6; John P. Murtha, D, 10; Thomas J. Ridge, R, 2; Don Ritter, R, none; Richard John Santorum, R, none; Richard T. Schulze, R, 4, retiring; Bud Shuster, R, 32; Robert S. Walker, R, none; Curt Weldon, R, 9; Gus Yatron, D, none, retiring.
RHODE ISLAND: Ronald K. Machtley, R, 21; John F. Reed, D, none.
SOUTH CAROLINA: Butler Derrick, D, none; Elizabeth J. Patterson, D, 2; Arthur Ravenel, R, none; Floyd Spence, R, 12; John M. Spratt, D, 46; Robin Tallon, D, 2.
SOUTH DAKOTA: Tim Johnson, D, none.
TENNESSEE: Bob Clement, D, 1; Jim Cooper, D, 7; John J. Duncan, R, none; Harold E. FORD, D, 388; Bart Gordon, D, 6; Marilyn Lloyd, D, 8; James H. Quillen, R, none; Don Sundquist, R, 2; John S. Tanner, D, 3.
TEXAS: Michael A. Andrews, D, 121; Bill Archer, R, 1; Richard K. Armey, R, 19; Joe Barton, R, none; Jack Brooks, D, none; John Bryant, D, 55; Albert Bustamante, D, 30; Jim Chapman, D, none; Ronald COLEMAN, D, 673; Larry Combest, R, none; E. (Kika) De la Garza, D, 284; Tom DeLay, R, 11; Chet Edwards, D, none; Jack Fields, R, 22; Martin Frost, D, none; Pete Geren, D, 3; Henry B. Gonzalez, D, none; Ralph M. Hall, D, 18; Sam Johnson, R, none; Greg Laughlin, D, 9; Solomon P. Ortiz, D, 18; J.J. Pickle, D, none; Bill Sarpalius, D, 6; Lamar S. Smith, R, 1; Charles W. Stenholm, D, 86; Craig A. Washington, D, 3; Charles Wilson, D, 81.
UTAH: James V. Hansen, R, none; Bill Orton, R, none; Wayne Owens, D, 87, Senate candidate.
VIRGINIA: George Allen, R, none, gov. candidate; Herbert Bateman, R, none; Thomas J. Bliley, R, none; Rick Boucher, D, 1; James P. Moran, D, 3; Jim Olin, D, 1, retiring; Lewis F. Payne, D, none; Owen B. Pickett, D, 1; Norman Sisisky, D, none; Frank R. Wolf, R, none.
VERMONT: Bernard Sanders, Independent, 5.
WASHINGTON: Rod Chandler, R, 1, Senate candidate; Norman Dicks, D, 3; Tom Foley, D, 2; Jim A. McDermott, D, none; John Miller, R, 58, retiring; Sid Morrison, R, none, gov. candidate; Al Swift, D, none; Jolene Unsoeld, D, 1.
WEST VIRGINIA: Alan B. Mollohan, D, 12; Nick Joe Rahall, D, none; Harley O. Staggers, D, none; Robert E. Wise, D, none.
WISCONSIN: Les Aspin, D, 6; Steve Gunderson, R, 22; Gerald D. Kleczka, D, 1; Scott L. Klug, R, 3; Jim Moody, D, none, Senate candidate; David R Obey, D, 64; Thomas E. Petri, R, 77; Toby Roth, R, none; F. James Sensenbrenner, R, 14.
WYOMING: Craig Thomas, R, none.