Morning After Report: Six Steps Forward and Seven Back In The Quest For A Trustworthy Congress

We’ll never get a trustworthy Congress this way.

So much for “the wisdom of crowds.” Last night, knowing (theoretically, at least) that the one completely irrational choice for the nation at this critical juncture in its history is more gridlock born of ideological intransigence, voters sent a dysfunctional Congress back to Washington, opting for a radical conservative House and a radical liberal Senate despite telling pollsters that this was the least trusted Congress in history. Just to make sure compromise and movement would be as difficult as possible, the public also re-elected a President who, whatever his other virtues, has shown neither the ability nor the inclination to engage in effective negotiation with his political adversaries on the Hill. There were plenty of more responsible options available to voters:

  • Commit to the President, and give his party majorities in both Houses of Congress so he could get his policies implemented, for better or worse,
  • Give the Senate back to the GOP, so some of the bills the House has passed can be sent to the President’s desk
  • Sweep everybody out and try a new team to see if it can do any better.

But no. The American public, in its infinite wisdom, opted for nearly the exact toxic partisan mix that has served the nation so miserably for the past two years. Unquestionably, the biggest ethics failure on election night was this one.

Yet there was progress, as voters rejected some of the more unethical officials offering their services. Unfortunately, these wise and ethical choices were greatly diluted by other unforgivable ones. On the plus side: Continue reading

Cognitive Dissonance, Corruption, and Patrick Moran

This video creates a major cognitive dissonance problem for me.

James O’Keefe, of ACORN take-down infamy, who engages in unethical journalistic practices to catch conservative foes in incriminating or otherwise damning statements, once again succeeded in exposing serious corruption, this time in the Virginia Democratic Party and more specifically on the staff of Northern Virginia Congressman Jim Moran. O’Keefe and his “Project Veritas” are the epitome of “the ends justify the means” philosophy of political warfare, and they are neither trustworthy nor admirable. Nonetheless, the video his dishonest methods produced provides important information to the public, and its message should not be ignored or minimized because it is the product of lies and a hidden camera.

Jim Moran is my Congressman, and has been for decades. There is no question that Moran is untrustworthy; there is substantial evidence that he is corrupt and has the values of a thug. We can add to this evidence that fact that his son Patrick, as the O’Keefe video shows, was happy to volunteer information to a starnger he thought was an aspiring voter fraud conspirator just how to cast Democratic votes for a hundred or so Virginians who weren’t going to visit the voting booth. Patrick Moran was the Congressman’s campaign field director at the time; he is also the nephew of Jim’s brother, who heads the Virginia Democratic Party. Patrick has since resigned, saying, naturally, that he made “a mistake.” In his exit statement to the media, Moran said:

“In reference to the ‘O’Keefe’ video, at no point have I, or will I ever endorse any sort of illegal or unethical behavior. At no point did I take this person seriously. He struck me as being unstable and joking, and for only that reason did I humor him. In hindsight, I should have immediately walked away, making it clear that there is no place in the electoral process for even the suggestion of illegal behavior: joking or not. In regards to my position on the campaign, I have stepped down because I do not want to be a distraction during this year’s critical election.”

Watching the video, his characterization of the incident is risible, but you can decide for yourself. In my view, Moran endorses illegal and unethical behavior by having the conversation, and not immediately responding to the initial inquiry by saying, “Neither this campaign, nor this party, tolerates what you are suggesting, which is an illegal attempt to subvert the Democratic process. What’s your name? I’m calling the police right now.” Continue reading

“Trust Us, It Only LOOKS like Bribery!”

Imagine, if you will, that I post an enthusiastic testimonial to the superior depilatory virtues of  Braun electric razors as compared to Norelco Triple-headers. Then suppose that you learn that, prior to the publication of my pro-Braun rave, Braun had sent Ethics Alarms a generous contribution “to support its good works in support of ethical consciousness.” Not only that, but also imagine that this contribution was brokered by an organization paid by Braun because it guaranteed that it could get good reviews of for its clients’ products on ethics websites. If I subsequently claimed that my razor review rave and the felicitous gift from Braun were absolutely unrelated, that I recommended Braun’s razor purely because of the product’s wonderful qualities  was influenced not one whit by the payola and the implicit promise of more, would you believe me?

If you would, you would be…well, I think the technical term would be “an idiot.” Yet that is the gist of the most recent outrage from the House of Representatives ethics committee, which  issued a report clearing the late Rep. John Murtha as well as Reps. Jim Moran (D-VA), Marcy Kaptur (D-OH), Norm Dicks (D-WA),  Rep. Pete Visclosky (D-Ind.), Todd Tahrt (R-Kan.) and Rep. Bill Young (R-FL) of acquiring lucrative earmarks for government contractors after the same contractors had sent them huge “contributions.”  Continue reading