For Your Edification: These Members Of The 2019 House Of Representatives Are Facing Ethics Probes

Remember that the House Ethics Committee maintains a very narrow definition of “ethics.” Almost all serious ethics allegations and investigations in Congress involve financial misconduct, employment shenanigans, actual criminal conduct or blatant conflicts of interest.  The prohibition against sexual relations with staff was relatively recently added, and even more recently taken seriously, thanks to the Harvey Weinstein Ethics Train Wreck. If the House really was concerned with promoting ethics rather than compliance, it would bring more investigations based on #1 in the House Code of Conduct:

1. A Member, Delegate, Resident Commissioner, officer, or employee of the House shall behave at all times in a manner that shall reflect creditably on the House.

It is fair to say, I think, that this standard has been openly abandoned by both parties.

Here are the current open investigations:

 Representative Alcee L. Hastings, (D-Florida),

Alcee is my favorite unethical House member, and has been for years.  He was impeached and removed from the federal bench in 1989 after the Senate found him guilty of eight impeachment articles, including one charging that he had conspired to receive a $150,000 bribe. Yes, his constituents have shown themselves unworthy of Democracy. Now he is being accused of  violating House rules by having a personal relationship with a member of his staff, and get this: it is with the lawyer who defended him in his impeachment trial. Hastings, who is 83, admits the relationship with Patricia Williams, whom he has had on his staff for years. They even bought a $700,000 house togethet bought a house near Boynton Beach.  Hastings still owes legal fees to her for the work on his impeachment defense, raising another ethics issue regarding inappropriate gifts or “forbearance.” is seeking the payment of debts.

As we know by now,  Representative Katie Hill of California, a first-term Democrat, had a sexual relationship with a member of her congressional staff and had to resign as a result—well, that and the public release of kinky nude photographs inconsistent with House Code of Conduct #1.

Representative Michael F. Q. San Nicolas (D-Guam) Continue reading

Ethics Hero: McDonald’s

 

Neat, clean, unambiguous: Katie Hill take notice.

McDonald’s has either fired CEO Steve Easterbrook or forced him to resign (it’s unclear which)  after it was determined that he had a sexual relationship with an employee, and thus a subordinate.  The relationship was determined to be “consensual,” to the extent a non-workplace, intimate relationship with a superior who controls your livelihood and professional advancement can ever be regarded as truly consensual. The position of Ethics Alarms is that it can not be; this was once the official position of the National Organization for Women until the principle threatened the tenure of Bill Clinton in the White House, whereupon Gloria Steinem suddenly declared that such relationships were swell.

“Mickey D’s” Board of Directors found Easterbrook had “demonstrated poor judgement,” the company announced today, and had violated written company policy. Easterbrook, 52 years old, had seen the company’s shares nearly double  in value since he became chief executive in March 2015.  The board therefore definitively rejected the King’s Pass, sending an unequivocal message to other managers that treating the workplace as their personal dating bar wouldn’t be tolerated no matter how important they were or how effective they were at their jobs.

Good. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 10/30/2019: “Happy Birthday Little Sister!” Edition

Good Morning!

Today marks the birthday of my younger sister, whom I have referred to here frequently. Growing up with her and following her life and career imbued me with an early and ongoing appreciation of the effects of sexism and pro-male bias in society, and I’m indebted to her for that. She has always equaled or surpassed me in ability and enterprise, yet often watched me receive more credit or praise for the same things she could do and did without similar acclaim. I know she resented me for that (probably still does—she won’t read Ethics Alarms, for example), and it frequently bruised our relationship over the years. She also taught me about moral luck: in general, I have been persistently  lucky, and she has not, and the difference was so evident that I learned very early in life not to congratulate myself for how the dice fell. She is finally happy in retirement, is about to welcome the first grandchild for this generation of Marshalls, her two adult children are healthy and prospering, and her beloved Nationals just forced a Game 7 in the World Series. She will have a happy birthday. Good. She deserves it.

1. Tales of the double standard, and the imaginary double standard. MSNBC and much of the progressive noise machine has decided to paint Rep. Katie Hill as a victim of a “vast right wing conspiracy,” in Hillary’s immortal phrase, and a vicious husband. If he indeed was the one who shared the salacious photos of Hill involved in various sex acts,  vicious he certainly is. But how can anyone say, as lawyer Carrie Goldberg does, that  “Katie Hill was taken down by three things: an abusive ex, a misogynist far-right media apparatus, and a society that was gleeful about sexually humiliating a young woman in power…None of those elements would be here if it were a male victim. It is because she is female that this happened’? Nonsense, and deceptive nonsense.

Hill resigned because a House ethics investigation was underway regarding her admitted sexual affair with a Congressional staffer and an alleged affair with her legislative director. She was not going to be kicked out of Congress for either or both; she probably resigned in part because she knew the investigation was going to turn up more and worse. The Naked Congresswoman Principle also played a part, as I discussed here. Does anyone really believe that equivalent photos of a male member of Congress displaying his naughty bits in flagrante delicto (my late, great, law school roomie loved saying that phrase) with both sexes would be shrugged off by his constituents and the news media? Who are they kidding?

Hill was arrogant and reckless, and is paying the predictable price, though she was not smart enough to predict it. Trail-blazers—I’m not sure being the first openly bi-sexual member of Congress is much  of a trail to blaze, but never mind—are always under special scrutiny and have to avoid scandal at all costs. Did Hill ever hear of Jackie Robinson? Allowing those photos to come into existence showed terrible judgment; using her staff as a dating resource was hypocritical for a member of the  #MeToo party and workplace misconduct too.

The fact that she is being defended tells us all we need to know about the integrity of her  defenders. Continue reading

The Naked Congresswoman Principle Is Confirmed, Rep. Hill Resigns, And She Refuses To Accept Responsibility

Of course she does.

Democratic Rep. Katie Hill of California has resigned. from the House of Representatives. Ethics Alarms examined Rep. Hill’s plight in the recent post, Just What We Needed: The Naked Congresswoman Principle. It concluded,

“The Naked Teacher Principle, Naked Congresswoman Variation, rules. The fact that these photos became public undermines trust in Hill’s judgement, competence, and trustworthiness, if not her physical fitness. It doesn’t matter how or why they got online. The person ultimately responsible is Hill. If you want to have a career based on respect and trust, don’t pose for naked pictures, sex photos, or pictures that make you look like you’re employed by an escort service. That shouldn’t be so hard.”

The lesson of the Naked Teacher Principle and most (though not all!) of its variations held true for Hill: once there are photos out there of a professional holding a position requiring dignity and trust behaving like or looking like a porn star, a drunken frat date, Kim Kardashian or a Sports illustrated swimsuit model, that professional’s ability to do her (or his) job has been seriously wounded, perhaps mortally. It would have been nice, and admirable, if Hill acknowledged this fact of life, the workplace and politics, but as you can see from her resignation letter below, she did not:

Ugh.

Hill appears to be taking no responsibility for her fate at all. This was a “rising star” in the Democratic Party firmament? Yechh.  Continue reading

Just What We Needed: The Naked Congresswoman Principle

Rep. Hill? Is that really you? AND WHAT THE HELL IS THAT GUY DOING?”

There have been many variations on the Naked Teacher Principle since I began tracking the issue, back in the halcyon days of the Ethics Scoreboard (still trapped in website host limbo). Some of the more interesting versions that have been explored on Ethics Alarms include The Female Bodybuilder Firefighter Principle, The Drag Queen Principal Principle, The Online Porn Star Teacher Principle, Naked Naval War College Professor Principle, and many others that one can explore here.

All involve the basic concept that when one has a job that requires respect, an image of dignity, the perception of good judgment and role model status, allowing naked, semi-naked, sexually provocative or otherwise compromising photos to be created, and they eventually find themselves online and available to those the individual thus exposed is responsible for leading, teaching, or guiding, the individual  cannot reasonably protest if this results in their losing their job. This is true even if the Naked Teacher or equivalent has been betrayed, victimized, or wronged. The Naked Teacher Principle involves strict liability. The lesson: if you intend to have a career requiring the public trust, don’t get photos made of yourself that you would not want to show to your mother or have appear on the front page of USA Today.

Now Democrats, feminists and progressives are defending Democratic Rep. Katie Hill  elected in 2018 as the first openly bisexual congresswoman from California. In connection with allegations that Hill had extramarital affairs with a female campaign staffer and a male congressional aide,  RedState, a conservative news website, and The Daily Mail, a British tabloid site,   published sexually explicit photos of Hill engaged in various versions of flagrante delicto. These are now viral. Some are porn mag-graphic; I’m not even going to discuss the bong she appears to be using in one of them. (And who was taking those photos?)

The House Committee on Ethics has begun an investigation, since it is against House rules for representatives to have sexual relationships with congressional staff.

Here is the Huffington Post  running interference for Hill, because God forbid a Democrat ever lose her House seat to an evil Republican: Continue reading

Sunday Ethics Warm-Up, 10/20/19: Ancient Icelanders And Others Behaving Badly

Good Morning!

1. Confession: I called a stranger an asshole on Facebook yesterday. I had patiently explained to a Facebook Borg-infected friend that no, the Justice Department report on Hillary’s email fiasco had not proven for all time that she hadn’t “done anything wrong,” quite the contrary. The report revealed that she was directly responsible for over 600 security breaches (after saying otherwise for more than a year). That means that she was reckless, incompetent, irresponsible and dishonest, and, since the applicable statute doesn’t require intent, could have been prosecuted. The report did find that there was no evidence that Clinton deliberately set out to endanger national security, which was never the issue.

Some clod following the thread wrote that you “could sure tell who follows Fox News talking points.” Well, I’m sick of that lazy deflection, and anyone who uses it, especially on me, is an asshole, and needs to be told.  maybe ist not too late to get treatment. It’s even more of an asshole thing to say than the reflex “But ….Trump!” retort.

2. Yes, this is unethical. Yes, it is newsworthy. No, it is receiving almost no national coverage outside of conservative news sources. Rep. Katie Hill, Vice Chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, has been engaged in a three-way sexual relationship involving a  staffer and her husband. This would not matter to me, and should not matter to you, except that the woman involved is Hill’s subordinate. The workplace is not a dating bar or personal harem, not in the private sector, not in Congress. In addition, close personal relationships create conflicts of interest for the supervisor in any office. I would mention the inherent imbalance of power that makes it impossible for an employee to consent to a superior’s advances in such a situation, but of course Lee knows that, being an ardent #MeToo and Time’s Up! supporter.

The hypocrisy in the Democratic Party on this issue is wide, deep, and nauseating, except, I guess, to Democrats. Last week, discussing this issue with lawyers following my ethics seminar, a usually smart, fair, male attorney actually opined that Joe Biden’s serial non-consensual groping wasn’t really a problem because “he didn’t mean it to be sexual assault.” The lawyer really said this, though “I didn’t mean anything by it” has been the reflex excuse of every sexual harasser from Bill O’Reilly to Louis C.K.

3. Stipulated: President Trump’s harsh rhetoric in the aborted White House meeting with Democrats was one more stupid self-inflicted wound. Given the barrage of ad hominem attacks by the party that she leads, and the disrespect for the office that Pelosi herself has orchestrated (that mocking clap at the State of the Union speech alone was unforgivable), Trump was certainly provoked, but the President is not supposed to slide into the gutter just because his adversaries live there. It’s swell to be a “fighter”—Trump is probably correct that Mitt Romney would have been elected President in 2012 if he had a some Trump in him—but that doesn’t mean that gratuitous incivility and nastiness is a competent or responsible political strategy.

However, this image, part of a cartoon by Andy Marlette for the Pensacola News Journal earlier this year… Continue reading