Ethics Dunces: House Republicans….WAIT! Trump To The Rescue!

oce-website

Per The Washington Examiner:

House Republicans on Monday quietly voted to strip the independent power from an outside ethics panel established eight years ago following a string of corruption scandals, a move they made just hours before the start of the 115th Congress. A measure defanging the Office of Congressional Ethics, authored by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, will now be included in the House Rules package, which is poised for a Tuesday afternoon vote before the entire House.

The provision’s most important feature changes the OCE from an independent entity to a body that falls under the jurisdiction of the House Ethics Committee, a 10-member, bipartisan committee of lawmakers that rarely hands out serious punishment. Goodlatte’s provision renames the OCE the “Office of Congressional Complaint Review,” and said the changes were needed because lawmakers have been subjected to investigations provoked by partisan outside groups.

The move was incompetent, as it is terrible public relations and undermines the public trust. I’d call it straight-up unethical as well, because it constitutes the appearance of impropriety, which is prohibited by House ethics rules already.

Then, that evil, fascist President-Elect Donald Trump tweeted…

“With all that Congress has to work on, do they really have to make the weakening of the Independent Ethics Watchdog, as unfair as it … may be, their number one act and priority. Focus on tax reform, healthcare and so many other things of far greater importance! #DTS,

The House Republicans backed down, and eliminated the measure.

Observations:

  • Good.
  • I can’t wait to see how the Rabid Anti-Trump forces spin this. There has to be something wrong with it—oh, of course! It proves that he’s an autocrat and a dictator! All he has to do is tweet, and his fascist party falls into line!
  • Does Trump have any idea how the House ethics system works (or doesn’t, to be more accurate)? Of course not, and it doesn’t matter. The measure looked bad, and that’s enough. He understood that much.
  • Let’s not get carried away, however. NPR hyperventilated, House Republicans vote to eviscerate the Office of Congressional Ethics, as if the House ethics system was actually worth a damn. It isn’t. The system currently allows outrageous corruption. Punishment is minimal.  Dozens of House members are involved in corrupt activities that have been well-documented, and complaints languish in committees for years. NPR’s headline makes it appear that the proposed move would open the door to corruption without consequences. That door is already open wide. Members get punished for ethics violations when the news media reports on it clearly and consistently. The current OCE hardly has “fangs” to “defang.”
  • It wasn’t nearly as well-publicized—I wonder why?—but the last time there was an effort to gut the OCE, it was the Congressional Black Caucus that tried it—you know, the Democrats. Why did the Congressional Black Caucus have it in for the OCE? Well, a disproportionate number of its members were being investigated for ethics problems., that’s why, so the principle of “disparate impact” applied. When that failed, Congressional Black Caucus member (and one-time target of an OCE investigation) Rep. Mel Watt, who has since been defeated,  sought to add an amendment to the Legislative Branch Appropriations bill that would have cut OCE’s funding by 40 percent. I wrote about the effort in 2011.
  • Is a weak, toothless, deceptively ineffective system of ethics oversight better than no system at all? I wonder. I think the current system provides cover more than anything else. Still. Congress seems more ethical with an independent OCE. That’s something.

I suppose.

_____________________

Pointer: Becky

32 Comments

Filed under Ethics Dunces, Government & Politics, Incompetent Elected Officials, Leadership

32 responses to “Ethics Dunces: House Republicans….WAIT! Trump To The Rescue!

  1. Anonymous Coward

    So, now I wonder if trump handed the keys to his twitter over to someone more competent, or if that is actually him.

    suppose it doesn’t matter that much. Even in the first case the fact he’d hand over his easiest way to share his opinion with the world that’s a good sign.

  2. IS the oversight group established by law? That is a modification to it ultimately has to be signed by the President?

  3. Adam C

    “I can’t wait to see how the Rabid Anti-Trump forces spin this.”

    Don’t worry, they’re on it: House GOP abandons plans to kill independent ethics office in favor of 1% tax cuts and taking away healthcare

  4. Chris

    Well, broken clocks and all that. In this case, Trump was right. I also agree that a lot of the left-wing hysteria over this move was overblown–I assumed the office was as ineffective as you make it sound here, but lots of liberals I follow made it sound like this was the one thing standing between us and absolute top-to-bottom corruption, which just didn’t pass the smell test.

  5. James Flood

    Jack: this piece is a great summary but could (and probably will) go much further. You mentioned – but didn’t spend much time with – what I think is the worst part of this whole affair: high-ranking officials are STILL peddling the story of foreign influence. Foreign policy is far out of my wheelhouse but evicting foreign diplomats over a – to date – manufactured story is politically cynical in the extreme and arguably dangerous. I just heard Nancy Pelosi talking about the “dark operations of a foreign regime” and nearly kicked my cat (and I LOVE my cat). To quote iowahawk from Twitter: “Russia invades Crimea: oh well; Russia shoots down airliner: mistakes happen
    John Podesta falls for phishing scam: RESTART THE COLD WAR”

    • James Flood

      OOPS – just realized I posted this in the wrong thread. Never mind.

    • James, did this end up in the wrong thread? It seems to be related to the Russia post…

    • James,

      Why would you kick your cat? Cats are spectacular animals who allow us to live in their world. Kicking them definitely not on the table.

      jvb

      • James Flood

        No, I would never do that – I love my Maine Coon Cat. My wife is jealous as I give the cat too much attention (that is NOT a euphemism). “Mad enough to kick a cat” is an old idiom of unclear origin.

        • Also, those cats are HUGE. My honeymoon was spent at a rustic country inn where the Maine Coon that stalked the place picked guest rooms to sleep in, and we awoke the day after our wedding with a defiant and spectacular cat with the look and size of a lynx staring at us.

          • Spartan

            Maine Coon cats are awesome. I have a black one with gold eyes — prettiest cat I’ve ever seen. But I digress … I’m more interested in the fact that you left your bedroom door open in an inn on your HONEYMOON. I have so many jokes, comments, questions …. I really don’t know where to start.

  6. Neil Dorr

    NPR actually gave Trump positive credit for the move.

  7. Wow, talk about strange. I just read a “Truthout” article on this topic referring to what Amy Goodman at “Democracy Now” had to say about it, and headed right on over here to give you a heads-up, in case it had somehow slipped by your eagle-eyes. So what’s the first of your articles to greet my now-smiling face…you guessed it. Just in case you haven’t seen Amy’s say on the matter, or if you even care, here’s the link to the “Truthout” article where they interview Amy about her segment on it, which also includes her original video.
    http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/38962-without-warning-or-public-input-house-republicans-vote-to-dismantle-ethics-oversight-office

  8. zoebrain

    Credit where it is due. In fact, because this is the first time I can think of that I’ve had a favourable opinion of Trump’s behaviour, it should be given more weight and publicity, rather than less.

    So should the OCE of course, but one step at a time.

  9. Spartan

    Yawn. This whole story is “Much Ado” in my book from every angle.

    • E2 (nee Elizabeth I)

      It’s big news because the Democrats and the media tried to make it huge news. Trump’s response was correct, but alas anything he does or says only becomes additional fodder for those who will pervert everything to support their left-wing ideology.

  10. Has there been much noise about the thousands of phone calls that Congress got for the move? Supposedly that may have played more into it than PEOTUS’s tweet. But I don’t think that either is provable.

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