In the last hours of the last day of the 2006 House session, members of the House ethics committee practiced a great Washington tradition: The Friday afternoon document dump.
At 2 p.m., the panel members came to a news conference, congratulated each other for a job well done and presented everyone with a dense 100- or-so-page report on Mark Foley, the ex-congressman with an eye for young male congressional pages. That report (here’s the pdf version) basically said that a lot of people knew what was going on with Foley and a few warned him to knock it off, but nobody really stepped up and pressed the issue until the darn media got tipped off. Hands were slapped, justice was proclaimed and everyone went home for the weekend.
The Friday afternoon bad news dump is a Washington tradition because 1)hardly anyone pays attention to weekend news, and 2)journalism outfits begin scaling back their staff sizes. This makes it harder to analyze documents and harder still to get anyone to pay attention. You almost have to admire the thinking, in a backhanded way.
The ethics panel added an additional twist I’ve never seen before (although people probably have done it): The PDF version of the report was scanned in as a graphic, not a document. What does that do? It makes it impossible to copy and paste the text into easy-to-email documents or easy-to-create web pages. If you want to put up the text of the document, you had to type every word of it — all 100 pages. That’s going the extra mile.