A Facade of Impartiality
CREW claims to be a non-partisan organization that targets both Democrats and Republicans for corruption. According to its website, CREW is "dedicated to promoting ethics and accountability in government and public life by targeting government officials—regardless of party—who sacrifice the common good to special interests."
CREW's claim of non-partisanship is often cited by journalists.
"Melanie Sloan, executive director of the non-partisan Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, said that early money often is considered more valuable because it can keep potential opponents from entering a race." - "Dems Leverage Wins With..." USA Today, November 21, 2008
"'Why would you continue to use Blackwater when the Iraqi government has banned the highly controversial company and there are other choices?' asked Melanie Sloan, executive director of the non-partisan Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington." - "Blackwater Still Works for U.S." UPI, March 17, 2009
"Nothing has changed despite calls for reform, said Melanie Sloan, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a non-partisan watchdog group." - "Members of Congress Seeking Re-election Troll Lobbyist Ranks" The Lexington Herald Leader, October 3, 2006
But CREW's alleged impartiality is a facade. The group’s partisan agenda is clear. CREW has routinely applied different standards to Republican candidates and conservative groups than it uses for Democratic candidates and progressive groups.
Despite CREW’s claim that the level of Washington corruption is closely tied to the party in power, a historical analysis of CREW’s formal complaints against politicians shows that the organization continued to file an excessive number of complaints against Republicans even when the Democrats took control of Congress in 2007 (and the White House in 2009).
Attacks on Tom DeLay
CREW got its start attacking Rep. Tom DeLay, a conservative House Republican leader.
Since Democratic activists are so integral to CREW’s structure and funding, it is hardly a surprise that the group broke into politics by almost exclusively going after Republican politicians. The group's first high-profile target was Rep. Tom DeLay, who became the Republicans' House Majority Leader in 2003.
In June 2004, Rep. Chris Bell, former Democratic congressman of Texas, filed a complaint against DeLay with the House Ethics Committee; CREW helped draft the complaint and called Bell "a hero." In October 2004, the committee rebuked DeLay for two ethics violations. The following year, CREW targeted DeLay’s Americans for a Republican Majority PAC with a Federal Election Commission complaint. Under pressure, DeLay resigned from Congress in June 2006.
CREW's legal actions against DeLay were a key victory for the organization. Melanie Sloan said in a C-SPAN interview, "There is nothing we've done at CREW, to my mind, that is as important as helping get rid of Congressman Tom DeLay and having him out of the halls of Congress." When Sloan was asked why she took the CREW position, she told Ms. Magazine that it was to go after DeLay. "I knew that getting rid of DeLay would improve the entire culture of the city, and I thought, 'That's what I want to be known for,'" she said.
Until 2008, CREW produced an annual report titled "Beyond DeLay" that identified other allegedly corrupt members of Congress, mostly Republicans. The name of the report was later changed to "CREW's Most Corrupt."
It's a problem to be publicly critical of other people's conduct if you're engaging in that conduct yourself.
- Melanie Sloan on MSNBC