Floor and Committee Statements

Mr. President, on certain occasions in the life of a public official one is  called upon to make difficult and unpleasant decisions. Such is the case for  the six members of the U.S. Senate Ethics Committee today. But we recognize it  is essential that the institution--this Senate--that passes the laws which all  our citizens must live under must also enforce those laws and rules of  standards and conduct which we impose upon ourselves. It is a solemn  responsibility, but it is important to the integrity and the future of this  institution.

      The Senate Ethics Committee looks  upon itself as an advisory board and a source of information and counsel to our  Members. We ask Members to come to us when there are questions about the  potential ethical violation of a decision or even something that might, in  passing, seem to be trivial. Our job is to make sure everybody who has a  question gets an answer and no one unwillingly gets caught in an unethical  situation. But it is also our responsibility, when complaints are filed, to  follow up on those complaints and, if we find merit in the complaint, to enter  an initial investigatory period of time which, if that position bears enough  likelihood that a violation has occurred, ultimately goes to an adjudicatory  phase and then finally a decision on the floor of the Senate. It is rare, and I  can tell my colleagues personally it is a situation I hope I am never involved  in again. But, as I said, it is an essential process to the integrity of this  body.

      When the particular complaint in  question in the Ensign case came to us, it was, similar to any other case,  reviewed initially to determine whether it even merited an investigation. After  the initial review determined it did merit an investigation, the Senate staff  did an overwhelming and wonderful job of gathering information, evidence, and  testimony to help us get to a position to begin to make a decision as to  whether we could go further in the case. But we didn't rely just on ourselves. We sought  forensic experts and computers and technology so the over 500,000 documents  that were reviewed and cross-referenced had a forensic test to them and we knew  what we were dealing with and how it was dealt with. We even hired a special  counsel, which is rare for the Senate Ethics Committee to do, but it was  essential because of where the evidence and the testimony was leading the  committee.

      I wish to say, at this point in  time, I have known a lot of lawyers in my day, ones I have hired and ones I  have been on the other side of the deposition table from. I have never known  anybody more professional or whose ability I admired more than Carol Elder  Bruce, and I wish to commend her on the floor of the Senate. It was her report  which we are also submitting with the referrals today to indicate that we have  looked to see that there was reasonable evidence to conclude that a violation  may have occurred. The ultimate decision on that will be up to the U.S.  Department of Justice and it will be up to the Federal Election Commission. But  the report clearly indicates that the Senate Ethics Committee did not act on  what it thought or an opinion or a whim. It acted on facts determined through  hundreds of interviews, 500,000 documents that were examined, and testimony that  came to our committee.

      It is the hope of the chairman and  myself and each member of the committee that every Member recognizes the Senate  Ethics Committee wants to be a source of information, advice, and counsel, to  see to it this institution always rises to the occasion as the most ethical  body in our government. But we will as a committee, if it becomes necessary and  the evidence finds it to be true, pursue our responsibility as a committee and  we will do what is required of us in this body.

      I wish to thank Chairman Boxer for the method in which she has handled this from the beginning to the end, as  well as Laura Schiller, who has been her aide throughout and helpful. I also  wish to commend Joan Kirchner, Chris Carr, and Glee Smith on my staff for their  tireless efforts. The members of the committee also should be commended for  their hard work, and it has been hard work. Ben Cardin has been a  tremendous legal mind for us. Sherrod Brown has been an insightful  person to ferret out information and guide us in the right direction. My dear  friend, Senator Roberts, is the dean of the members of the Ethics  Committee. On the floor are Senator Roberts, Senator Cardin, and  Senator Brown. Senator Risch from Idaho is not here, but he  deserves equal credit. As the chairman said, his legal mind and insightful  nature helped us come to the conclusions we came to today.

      I wish to repeat my thanks to Carol  Elder Bruce for the tremendous work she did, as well as Brian Stolarz, Mike  Missel, and John Songstregth, who all worked with her legal team. The staff of  the Ethics Committee, our staff director, John Sassaman, has been invaluable in  his tireless hours of work to see to it that every I was dotted, every T was  crossed, and the committee did its job. To Rochelle Ford, Lynn Tran, Bill  Corcoran, and Dan Schwager, thanks to them for all the effort they made.

      I will end where I began. No one in  public office volunteers for the type of responsibilities we have had in the  case of Senator Ensign. But all of us took that responsibility when it came  upon us, recognizing the integrity of the Senate and the integrity of our  decision was important for the future of this body. As sad as the deliberations  were and the ultimate result was, it was proof that this Senate and its Ethics  Committee can stand and do the effort necessary to see to it this institution's  integrity proceeds in the future uninhibited and unendangered.

      With that, unless there is a Member  who wishes to speak, I note the absence of a quorum.