NER Washington forum; Congressional ethics
I'm for a committee on standards of conduct but would prefer to sit handled by one of the regular committees of the house. The voice you just heard was that of United States Representative Wayne L. Hayes Democrat of Ohio. Our guest this week on the NE our Washington forum a weekly program probing the significant issues before us as a nation. Today a discussion on the question of congressional ethics. This program was produced for the national educational radio network through the facilities of W am you FM American University Radio in Washington DC. I'm Bill Greenwood. Congressman why in Hayes is currently serving his 19th year as a representative from the 18th District of Ohio. He is a permanent resident of flushing Ohio. A former history teacher he served as an Army officer in World War Two and was first elected to the Congress in 1948.
Representative Hayes has been re-elected for each term since then. Representative Hayes is a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. He is also chairman of the House Ethics Subcommittee a subcommittee of the powerful House Administration Committee. That's an assignment that has thrust him into the forefront of the controversy surrounding creation of a separate house committee on standards and conduct informal aide to be known as a House Ethics Committee. Such a group could have far reaching powers over the department of congressman. It is his dispute with some colleagues over the extent of power that such a committee should have which has resulted in innumerable headaches for Representative Hayes. Some say he's trying to kill the Ethics Committee entirely. Others say he's trying to sweep issues under the carpet to prevent the full exploration of misconduct by representatives of the United States government. Still other colleagues claim that
Representative Hayes is trying to hide his own skeletons in a closet. We will probably use charges as well as the entire question of congressional ethics during the next few minutes. On this edition of the NE our Washington forum. Congressman Hayes for the record do you feel Congress has the legal authority to create such a watchdog committee an ethics committee. And if so would you tell us please why you feel this way. Well I guess it has the authority to create such a watchdog committee I'm doubtful if it has authority to set up such a committee to police what members do with their private lives and I think the rules committee is aware of this from what I hear coming out of there they're going to strictly bind the committee that they seek to create to look after such things as well I don't really know what but to draw up a set of standards of conduct but which will not
be a conduct which was cited for example if a member gets a divorce this is against the ethics of the house. Congressman you've been pictured as a major opponent of efforts to establish such a House Ethics Committee. Are you opposed to a strong ethics committee and if so would you tell me why. Well I've been pictured that way but that doesn't make it so. I think the matter could have been handled by the House Administration Committee if the house ministration committee had been given some more powers not let me give you an example of why I say this. As a result of the hostile ministrations committee's investigation into the Palme matter back in December we ordered Mrs. palls name taken from the House payroll because she was not in compliance with the law which required her to perform whatever services she may have performed either in the District of Columbia or in the state from which the member was elected and the clerk did take her name from the payroll but we didn't have the power to order him to do that we assumed
and I suppose if Mr. Paal been seated and he wanted to go to court about it the court would have said that if he certified her as a member of his party at his office that. His ministration committee couldn't do much about it. We've been belabored and castigated in salted verbal leave by the press and by a television commentator some of them and others because we didn't do this and we didn't do that but we did what we could within the limits of our power and more. Now some people say the administration committee waited quite the usual length of time to initiate action on the Powell matter do you feel this is true. No I don't and as I understand what the rukus committee is going to come out with about this new committee that any charge which they look into must be under sworn and the form of a sworn affidavit. Now if the house ministration committee had filed that rules we would have looked into the Palme matter yet because we never had a sworn affidavit we had a
statement by a member of Mr. palls committee and Mr. Givens of Florida who was also a member of the house ministration Committee that these things were going on and he asked the House ministration committee to look into them and on that basis we did. Do you feel this is the proper way to handle matters of deportment such as Powell case. Absolutely because if you're going to I didn't bring it with me but I've got any number of or bring any of them with me but I have any number of letters in my office from people asking me to investigate Congressman the most ridiculous one I think of at the moment is from a woman a. In a state near the district Columbia who claims that a certain congressman gave her husband arthritis and therefore he should be thrown out of Congress. Now if you had had a committee that looked into every silly charge like that you wouldn't have very many members that wouldn't have their name blackened one way or another. Probably either maliciously or falsely argued. Some people would do it just because they want to create some disturbance.
There are a lot of irresponsible people in the country. Are you saying then that they should investigate all of these types. You know I'm saying we should not. I'm saying that we should not investigate anything which isn't attested to by a sworn affidavit. And it didn't shouldn't be that I believe such to be so but the affidavit should say I know such to be so and then if it isn't so early can I have some recourse on the person who signed the affidavit. Now you say earlier that the Powell matter was started without an affidavit. Do you feel then that this was an improper way to begin researching that problem. Well if I had it to do over again I think I would have had had the member make an affidavit and I think he would have done it. But this was a little different situation in which you had a member of Mr palls committee making the charge which was backed up by other members of the committee and that they were asking that the matter be looked into. But I certainly feel that if an outsider makes a charge against a congressman it ought to be in the form of an affidavit.
You would leave the door open though for any citizen to initiate such an affidavit if he could get his congressman or a congressman to present. Yes. Let me ask you also then along these lines if you feel such a procedure might not create a lot of these type of charges for political reasons as well as genuine concern on the part of said I I'm afraid that it would and I think that members could be done irreparable damage as I said last year when I opposed the creation of the Bennett committee at the time that we were doing or starting to do this job I said. And it was very loosely written there was nothing in it about an affidavit to the way it was written at that time anybody could command verbal easier by a letter or anything else and make a charge against a member I said this is a self immolation Bill this is an invitation. To people and I've been in politics long enough to know that. If you had a loose arrangement of that kind at every election or be
charges made against half the congressman and my guess is that 98 percent of them would either be completely phony or politically inspired. Congressman Hayes perhaps for our listeners you might explain briefly the Bennett Bill which you mentioned just now. Well the original Bennett resolution was to set up a so-called committee on ethics and it didn't have any ground rules it just set them up and let them do whatever they felt like doing. And I I think and I think the majority of the Congress agreed with me because that thing was it was defeated on the previous question overwhelmingly that it was too loosely drawn. I think the majority of the Congress wants a committee on standards and conduct but I don't think they want a witch hunting committee and I don't think they want one which will permit members of Congress to be smeared by political opponents or someone who has a grudge against a congressman and Bennett has charged recently that you are engaging in some sort of personal vendetta against his committee which has not been reconstituted. Is this well this isn't true at all and I think don't think Congressman Bennett if he were here would
say that he and I have discussed it and we have agreed that he views the problem one way and I do another but I think he's perfectly honest and sincere in the way he looks at it and he's conceded that he thinks I am. It is recorded that the congressman and I refer again to Congressman Bennett feels that your ethics subcommittee under the administration group will present a great problem and in the effort to reconstitute his separate Ethics Committee. Would you agree with that. Well I don't know of what he speaks about when he speaks his committee he was chairman of a committee which was authorized to drop some recommendations but that now there are many bills and of the latest I've heard from the Rules Committee that is that they're going to drop their own resolution which will create a standing committee on standards of conduct and I don't know if that's true or I don't know who will be chairman over whose committee it will be or anything else. But I do hear from the Rules Committee that they want a very tight set of
rules about how this committee may operate and the first thing they want to do as I understand it is to draw up a code and present it to the House for approval or disapproval before it starts any investigations of anybody. And one of the things I get a little tired of is the press and other news media intimating at least that every member of the House ought to be investigated some way or another this is ridiculous and I don't think the members of the house by and large are any worse or maybe not even as bad as a general cross-section of the constituencies that sent them here. Let's talk about that just for a moment. One of the assignments I believe of the Ethics Committee last year was to investigate the code of conduct for Congressman. Would you agree to such a code setting down guidelines as to what Congressman can and cannot do. Well I suppose I would if it's a reasonable one. But
I think I really don't see any necessity congressman are bound by the same laws that bind any citizen if you violate one you have no immunity because you're a congressman. There have been congressmen who have gone to jail or been congressman who paid fines and the Constitution says were exempt from arrest while on our way to or from a session but I was arrested for a traffic violation on my way from a session. The officer charged I was doing twenty nine miles in a twenty five mile an hour zone and I had to forfeit a deposit as a result of it so I created a somewhat of a sensation in my district and it was in a county that wasn't then in my district but since it isn't I carried the town where it happened overwhelmingly so I think people thought to do it was a little and I was being abused a little but the fact remains that I did have to put up with collateral and I did have to forfeit it. You say of course the congressman are bound by the same laws and this is naturally true.
If this is in practice though it appears to many that they are not being subjected to such close scrutiny. Some people say for example the Powell matter grew quite a bit before it was ever brought out into the open. Well yeah it did but I think quick because Mr. Paal is trouble as much as anything else was the fact that he was doing so many things I doubt. I don't know the just department have to determine whether he committed any violation of law as this hasn't been determined but he did in my opinion commit violations of what you would call a conduct which the rest of the House could approve. There were many things there was the matter of the flaunting of the courts in New York. It was a matter of keeping his wife on the payroll when she obviously wasn't doing any work. That was a matter of not supporting his family. That's a civil matter but it had a
bearing at that. It was a matter of his vacationing openly with another person while he was still married to a former wife and all of these things I think contributed to the sense of outrage that finally developed. But again that. Should Congress determine who a man lives with Should Congress determine whether a man lives with his wife or doesn't live with her. Should Congress determine whether a man can get a divorce or not get a divorce or do the constituents have a right to make a decision on this. Now in my particular constituency if I left my wife and daughter and didn't support them I think I wouldn't be re-elected. Let me turn these questions you just raised back to use or do you feel Congress does have a right to dictate the personal affairs of one of their colleagues. No I don't. Can you tell me also then there are many members of Congress. I don't
know offhand of a dozen who have gotten divorces. Should a be should Congress say if you're a member of this body you can't get a divorce. I've never had one but it's a late it's legal. I've heard other congressmen say members shouldn't be allowed to drink. Hi I'm not a teetotaller but I drink very very little. But should I say to a member you can't have a drink if it's legal for him to have one I mean why don't we have to use some kind of reason about this is a member supposed to be subject to one set of laws in the general population another I don't think so. You raise another point Congressman Hayes and this is the fact that constituents should of course have some say in this matter. I'd like to discuss the Powell case again since this is of course the contemporary one on this subject. Mr. Powell has been denied his seat by the Congress and at this point it would indicate he is going to be re-elected. This would think will pose a new problem for the 90 of
Congress. Well it'll pose a new problem for those people who voted not to seat him in the first place I wasn't one of them. I voted the recommendations of the cellar committee to seat him and punish him. Personally I wouldn't be too surprised that if he's re-elected the courts might orders to seating them Hort position is a member and who votes not the seating. One of the charges against PA was his and I quote his contemn Aisha's sad a tude towards the courts. That's a big word which I understand means it his flaunting of the courts to put it in simpler language is suppose the courts order us to seat him and we then members vote not to heart they being contemn Aisha's towards a court this is an excellent question in itself congressman and one that you're you know has been raised quite a bit about this do you feel the courts have a right to tell the Congress who they shall and shall not see.
I don't think the courts have a right to tell the Congress who they shall and shall not expel but I do think that the courts have a right to make a decision about whether a member elect makes a constitutional qualifications. And if he does and I don't believe the House has any right not to seat him. If the House wanted to throw Mr. Paul out they have every right in the world and they can do it on very loose grounds indeed according the Constitution. But that takes a two thirds vote and that wasn't put in there lightly that was put in there to protect the member. The House chose to do this by majority vote by excluding him before he ever was sworn in which I think is a sort of a way around the Constitution. You indicate then that the House may have acted unconstitutionally on the Powell matter. Well I'm not a lawyer and you can get as many arguments from as many lawyers as there are in the House about it. And in fact if there are 250 lawyers you can get 250 points of view but we'll just have to sort of look courts decide that.
I do feel that as a layman as I view it that we had no constitutional right to exclude him but we have every right to expel him. If Mr. Powell is re-elected do you feel that your ethics subcommittee will have any dealings with his case. You know a new vein. No I don't think so. It looks to me like the rules committee is going to create a new committee on standards and conduct and if they do I don't expect to compete with them for jurisdiction. How would the jurisdictions be separate or would they. Well I just think we wouldn't have an I wouldn't we wouldn't take any jurisdiction we would stick to accounts and procedures which the house vests in the house ministration committee and they would as I envision it draw up their regulations and submit them to the House for approval and then after that and for some but you can't drop a set of regulations now and then go back and pay all members in the 18 once Congress for violation of something you didn't have an existence
because the Constitution itself again perhaps it's ex post facto law is not in layman's language means it trying a man for something he did before the law became law. Let me ask you also on the same subject then many people have expressed surprise that the knighting of Congress cannot investigate actions of a member of the 89 Congress. Do you feel this is tying the hands of Congress or the Congress as a whole. Well Mr. Bennett said and this is one of the things I agree with him about that if this committee were set up he would envision its job as not being as sensational and not being trying members and not being investigating members but prohibiting as a sort of watchdog from any member straying in anything for which would make him or the Congress look bad. And as I've said here if they drop a standard of conduct and we'll use this is an example and I'll say that because member X owns a farm from now
on he can't vote on farm legislation. You can't go back into the other Congress and hail a member ran for having voted on farm legislation because there was no prohibition on. How do you feel on that subject Congressman Hayes. Well I don't I think it's ridiculous. I own a farm and I've never pursued this a paid in any government program because I didn't want anyone to say well he voted for free lime so he could get some for his farm my farm is eligible I've never accepted but my farm operation is such. An tiny thing that. Anything I could vote couldn't enrich me appreciably. Mind if I voted for it for price supports on beef and then accepted him it might put two or three hundred dollars a year in my pocket and this would be something that nobody would would I would think let's stand our way of a vote I think owning a farm and trying to operate it and trying to at least make a break even it has given me
some insight on what some of the farm problems are. Some of the ridiculous things that people have proposed for example is it good and I take another hypothetical example if your wife found some stock in a Ford Motor Company that you should vote on a tax bill. Oh no tax bill let you pass about corporations is going to affect an individual stockholder maybe 50 cents worth and this again is leaning bordering on the ridiculous. As far as I'm concerned do they want Congressman. Who have no competence in any other field who have been proven failures all their life. Are you going to say that a man who's been successful in business can't be in Congress I don't think so. Well this is a matter of course of ethics conflict of interest and many other subjects and it might be worth a moment of discussion here. There's been considerable coming out among many who feel that congressional committees are more heavily stacked with members who are knowledgeable in the fields of their committee and therefore rather than
serving as a watchdog of these interests or actually trying to promote them. Do you feel this might not be some sort of a conflict of interest. No I don't. I don't think that exists. Course I don't know too much about other committees or what the private interests of members may be but the Foreign Affairs Committee for example I try to get on it when I came here I was unable to you didn't know the right people didn't know the power is a biggie all I was trained in foreign affairs that was my field the university Nashiri. Should we say if a man has been trained in foreign affairs you have to make sure he doesn't get on a Foreign Affairs Committee. If you say I was put on the Banking Committee I did not a dime's worth of bank stock I have acquired some sense and happened to be a director of a small bank but not while I was on the Banking Committee. But should you say a man shouldn't be on the Banking Committee because he owns some banks stock I don't think so. I just don't think that members vote to their personal letter so I've never seen any evidence of it. Certainly you couldn't on foreign affairs. You've got to vote the interest of the country it seems to me.
This would be a subject for for investigation on occasion by an ethics committee though don't you think. No I don't think so because how are you going to prove if a man owns a thousand shares a bank stock and he's on the Banking Committee and he voted against regulation of banks that he did it because he owned the bank stock. And I just not believe it. Now we do have federal regulation of banks and there is a proposal to make all state banks submit the same regulation that national banks do. I would vote for that. Maybe a man. Who might own a hundred shares of stock in some state bank would vote against it but I don't think his stock would be the overriding reason I think he would probably be a states righter. This being the case how would you organize the investigatory aspect of an ethics committee. The one in vision by the well I'll tell you right now that's a very deep difficult problem and I think it's going to take a lot of soul searching a lot
of hearings a lot of testimony and a lot of discussion about the committee before they do come out with any such code of ethics. And would you favor a permanent Ethics Committee. Yes I don't think that many I would much prefer standing committee to a select committee. And would you support such legislation in the ninetieth coming I intend to if the Rules Committee brings it out yes. Would you prefer the type of committee which would be open hearings or closed hearings. Well I think you have to follow the rules of the House on that and the rules the house say if there is any evidence that you're going to do so it might tend to be derogatory to anyone you should give them a chance to be heard in closed hearings than if the evidence seems to be correct. And as a firm No not disputed and not overthrown then you can publish it. But I think that's a proper way to proceed that's the way we proceed in a power hearing we gave every witness the opportunity to be heard either in closed or open hearing.
And we did it to protect the witness and I think you owe that to any witness. How would you separate the investigations under Administration Committee where you're investigating the accounting procedures of the congressman and under a standing Ethics Committee where you would be investigating those other aspects. Well this is something I will have to be worked up but I don't think as a result of the recommendations which my subcommittee made and which have been implemented that we're going to have any more counting problems because everything is pretty hard and I just know for see this coming up again. Would you say perhaps then that the Ethics Subcommittee under the House Administration Committee might be an unnecessary group with us. Hamlisch one of us. Well that's what I thought I did say but I didn't intend to compete with them on that. We probably wouldn't take any jurisdiction. Those things we do have the matter of contracts which we have to prove again before
hand or not after the fact in this committee and it does have other things to do but. If the house sets up a separate Ethics Committee I don't intend to compete with them for jurisdiction. Could we say then that you would favor abolition of your ethics subcommittee. Well no because it really started out as the Accounts Committee and I expect we'd change its name back to that I mean not Accounts Committee but the contracts Committee right change its name to continue that because some subcommittee has to do it. There have been accusations that the regularities and accounting have existed among congressmen other than Mr Powell are there any such investigations now underway by your group. No we we hear those from time to time but that's somebody on a fishing expedition and. I don't know of any We checked over the accounting procedures of every committee we checked over the travel of every committee when we had palled best guess and we didn't find anything out of line. In closing then Congressman Hayes I wonder if I might ask you to summarize
briefly your opinion of ethics in general how do you feel the Congress writes As an ethical body is a lot of public safety being given to want to incident or is there a real cause for concern. Well I think there's a lot of publicity being given to one incident. The DOD matters had a lot of. Published today yeah I made the comment I know Senator Dodd he's not one of my close friends in fact I really am not very fond of him. I served on the committee with him but I said then and I'll say it again. What has he done that Dick Nixon didn't do and blame it on a cocker spaniel. He and he accumulated a slush fund for his own private travel on. And he went on the television when he was a candidate for vice president and talked about his dog Checkers and everybody in took at that this was a great thing to do. And I mean it depends upon the individual as I see it I'm not defending Senator Dodd neither my assailing him I'm just pointing out that
that these matters everyone has to be taken on its merits. And as far as I'm concerned ethics is a very difficult word to define and what may be ethical to one person might seem unethical to another. I said on the floor the other day I heard a member down at the White House clucking and going on because at a social event their drinks were being served well apparently thinks that's odd I think but it's not illegal and I said on the floor if he thought why serving one drink to a group of people was bad he should have been around an Andy Jackson's day. So maybe we've progressed a long ways and maybe we're just not aware of it. You would say then that the accomplice of the being given these few cases is certainly not indicative of the Congress as a whole. That's my opinion definitely. Thank you so much Congressman Hayes for being our guest this week. You've been listening to a discussion on the question of Congressional Ethics featuring United
- NER Washington forum
- Congressional ethics
- Producing Organization
- National Association of Educational Broadcasters
- WAMU-FM (Radio station : Washington, D.C.)
- Contributing Organization
- University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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- Episode Description
- Congressman Wayne Hays of Ohio discusses the question of Congressional ethics.
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- Discussion series featuring a prominent figure affecting federal government policy.
- Public Affairs
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Host: Greenwood, Bill
Interviewee: Hays, Wayne L. (Wayne Levere), 1911-1989
Producing Organization: National Association of Educational Broadcasters
Producing Organization: WAMU-FM (Radio station : Washington, D.C.)
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University of Maryland
Identifier: 67-24-1 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
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- MLA: “NER Washington forum; Congressional ethics.” 1967-03-30. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. January 24, 2022. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-v11vk13b>.
- APA: NER Washington forum; Congressional ethics. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-v11vk13b