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


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: Continue reading

Further Thoughts On “The Vampire Candidate”

dracula for congress

I don’t want to make this Vampire Day, but after reading the comments so far on today’s Ethics Quiz involving Florida Congressional candidate/ fantasy vampire role-play enthusiast Jake Rush, I realize that the original post omitted some important points and queries. Here, in no particular order, are my further thoughts:

  • The Ick Factor? Both conservative and liberal commentators are ridiculing Rush, essentially concluding that his hobby disqualifies him as a serious candidate. The most quoted source referred to the images embraced by Rush’s role-playing group as “disturbing,” “bizarre,” and “unsettling.” Do these reactions signal a rejection of Rush’s values, or is this a clear-cut example of the “Ick Factor,” which is often mistaken for unethical conduct? Strange does not mean wrong or unethical.
  • Trust. When we elect leaders, we must trust them. “Strange” by definition suggests unpredictability; if we don’t understand why people do what they do, it is hard for us to know how they will behave, and if we don’t know how they will behave, we can’t rationally trust them.
  • Integrity. I should have raised the issue of integrity, for it is critical to the problem. Integrity is essential to trust, and a candidate like Rush raises the question: “Who, or what, is this guy?” Is he a “straight-shooting” conservative who likes to play vampire in his spare time, just like some politicians like to play poker or watch synchronized swimming (now that’s what I call weird), or is he a wannabe creature of the night who is just playing a conservative Republican in the daytime to conform to the expectations of conventional society? If there is doubt about that, then his integrity is in question.

Continue reading

Ethics Quiz: Trust and the Vampire Candidate

jake-rushConservative Republican candidate Jacob A. Rush, a 35-year-old attorney, has begun a campaign in Florida’s 3rd Congressional District to win the primary against incumbent U.S. Rep. Ted Yoho, a Tea Party stalwart seeking a second term. Rush’s campaign website portrays  him  as a “conservative straight shooter,”and he may indeed be that. A Florida blog uncovered the fact that Rush is also, however, a long-time member of the Mind’s Eye Society,  “a nationwide community of gothic-punk role-players who take on the personas of vampires and other supernatural beings” for fantasy battles “against their own bestial natures, hunters, and each other.”

It’s all fun and games with improvisational theater tossed in, though with a decidedly adult set of themes. Rush liked ( likes?) to play a character named “van de Winst”, a lusty vampire, and photos of the lawyer were found on the web showing him and/or members of his club, playing vampire,  burning books, aiming shotguns at dogs, pretending to be demons, displaying Satanic symbols, being chained and gagged…you know, that kind of thing. Fun stuff.

After this all came out—how could he think it would not?—Rush explained in a press release:

“All my life, I’ve been blessed with a vivid imagination from playing George Washington in elementary school to dressing up as a super hero last Halloween for trick or treaters. Any cursory review of the Internet will show that I have played heroes and villains…. I have never hid nor shied away from disclosing my hobby activities. When I was hired at the Sheriff’s office, I fully disclosed my gaming and theatre background on the application, and these hobbies posed absolutely no problem or raised any flags. In fact, when applying for undercover work, these hobbies were considered an advantage, so much so my shift lieutenant nicknamed me ‘Shakespeare.'”

And he included this photo of him and his wife…

Rush and wife

…wisely choosing not to send this one:

Rush vanpire


And thus your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz for today is….

Is it  Jacob Rush’s unusual personal hobby relevant to his ability to serve in Congress?

Continue reading

Incompetent Elected Officials Of The Month: The U.S. Congress

"Oh, THAT..."

“Oh, THAT…”

We know that our elected officials don’t think it is important for them to read the bills they vote for (or against.) That’s irresponsible, but this is illegal: as pointed out by Thomas Beck in the Wall Street Journal, both Houses of Congress, but especially the Senate, defy the most basic Parliamentary rule of all, one that is mandated in the Constitution. The requirement: having  more than 50% of members present, a quorum, in order to do business.


“Congress has ignored the quorum requirement for decades, yet neither the president nor the courts has questioned the practice. The one time the Supreme Court was called upon to apply the quorum requirement was in the 1892 case of United States v. Ballin. A statute was challenged on the basis that, while a majority was present in the House when the act was passed, a majority didn’t cast votes on it. A unanimous Supreme Court explained that what matters is whether a majority is present: ‘All that the Constitution requires is the presence of a majority, and when that majority are present the power of the House arises.’ Continue reading

Today’s Ethics Quiz: How Do You React To Congressional Insider Trading?


Gekko for Congress. He has what It takes...Insider trading experience!

An  study in the journal Business and Politics last week reported that the investments of members of the House of Representatives outperformed those of the average investor by 55 basis points per month, or 6 percent annually. It concluded that lawmakers are taking advantage of inside information to make significant profits, engaging in conduct that would send a Gordon Gekko or Martha Stewart to jail.

“We find strong evidence that members of the House have some type of non-public information which they use for personal gain,” the four researchers who authored  “Abnormal Returns From the Common Stock Investments of Members of the U.S. House of Representatives” wrote. Continue reading

Integrity Failure: Speaker Boehner, When It Counts

Speaker of the House John Boehner wants us to know that he, unlike President Obama, is serious about making the tough spending cuts necessary to bring the Federal deficit under control, no matter whose ox is gored. “We are reducing programs that are important programs that we care about,” he has said sternly, “and we’re doing what every family does when it sits around its kitchen table: we’re making the choices about what do we need for the future.” As for the president and Democrats, Boehner has argued that their approach “was very small on spending discipline and a lot of new spending so-called investments.”

“Borrowing and spending is not the way to prosperity. Today’s deficits mean tomorrow’s tax increases, and that costs jobs,” Boehner said, making it clear that he means business.

Then yesterday, when House Republican freshmen agreed with President Barack Obama and voted to cancel an expenditure of $450 million for an alternative engine for the Pentagon’s next-generation fighter plane, Boehner didn’t support them…. Continue reading

Self-Restraint in Congress: Great Idea, Little Hope

Is Congress capable of exercising discipline and self-restraint? It will have to, in everything from avoiding partisan bickering and pay-back to cutting dispensable programs with loud constituencies, if the government is to have any chance of reducing the deficit and putting the nation back on the road to fiscal responsibility. We can hope, but the signs are not encouraging.

The Los Angeles Times reports that the incoming G.O.P majority is going to try to take the symbolic step of banning honorific proclamations, on the theory that Congress passing hundreds of bills each session saluting the American pickle industry, noting the retirement of Georgia Tech’s rugby coach, or lauding the memory of actress Delores Del Rio wastes time that needs to be spent doing the real work of governing. Continue reading

Jaw-Dropping Lie of the Year: Nancy Pelosi

“And we did all of this while restoring fiscal discipline to the Congress by making the pay-as-you-go rules the law of the land.”

House Speaker, soon to be Minority Leader, Nancy Pelosi in a Nov. 9 op-ed in USA Today, listing the achievements of the Democratic Congress under her leadership.

The pay-as-you-go rules, which require new spending  to be offset with new revenue or spending cuts, were adopted by the House in 2007 and became law in 2010. Significantly, the very same bill that established pay-as-you-go—or PAYGO—raised the debt limit by $1.9 trillion. Signed into law on Feb. 12,  PAYGO was waived less than two weeks later when the Senate voted for a $15 billion job creation bill.…that was not offset by new revenue or spending reductions.

In fact, the PAYGO rule is waived constantly: it was designed that way. Continue reading

The Duty of Candor and Rich Iott, the Tea Party’s Nazi Re-enactor Candidate

Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that Rich Iott, the Tea Party darling who is the Republican candidate for Ohio’s 9th District, isn’t necessarily unfit to be a U.S. Representative just because he used to dress up as a Nazi soldier, although he would have to come up with a much better explanation of why he thought that was a fun thing to do than he has managed to do so far. And if he’s planning on borrowing Christine O’Donnell’s “I am not a witch” campaign video approach—“I am not a Nazi. I’m you!” Worth a shot? Nah—-he should forget it. Still, let’s give him the benefit of a very large doubt.

It doesn’t help. He has still disqualified himself.

The reason—other than the fact that he admires Nazis—Rich Iott has disqualified himself from any elected office of trust is that he never disclosed to his movement, his party, his supporters, the media or the voters an aspect of his background that was absolutely, beyond a shadow of a doubt, “Bet the farm on it, Maggie, ’cause the horse is a sure thing!” certain to embarrass him and anyone who believed in his candidacy if it came to light, before or after the election. Continue reading