Wednesday, January 4, 2017
You can trust us. We're politicians.
Well, it looks like the new gov'ment has decided to start the year off with a bang in the form of a traditional Congressional kerfuffle. Seems the Republicans in the House o' Representatives weren't too happy 'bout the idea of a bunch of regular folks looking over their shoulders while they're busy living up to the their responsibilities of passing laws 'n' making policy decisions to support their main constituency. (In this case, read "constituency" as, "lobbyists offering the biggest bribes".) Course, they got a point - how many of us can do our jobs with someone constantly telling us, "You cain't do that! It's illegal.", ever'time we try to do something we ain't supposed to just 'cause someones handing us great wads of cash to do it anyway? So they decided that, 'fore the latest crop of deep-pocket lobbyists descend on Washington, they should get their House in order and get rid of the Office of Congressional Ethics 'fore they started prying into their soon-to-be fatter secret bank accounts. Course, they do have a point. Why do you need an Office of Congressional Ethics when folks have known for years that Congress has no ethics, which certain members have proven time and time again?
But let's take a little deeper look into this thing. For those of you who might not be familiar with the Office of Congressional Ethics, they are an "independent, non-partisan entity charged with reviewing allegations of misconduct against Members, officers, and staff of the United States House of Representatives" who review "a wide variety of allegations relating to earmarks, travel, financial disclosure, and legal expense funds". They are composed of "private citizens and cannot serve as members of Congress or work for the federal government" and consist "primarily of attorneys and other professionals with expertise in ethics law and investigations". (All quotes are taken from the official web site of the Office of Congressional Ethics.) So, they're basically a group of non-governmental professional citizens who make sure that members of the House and their staff are keeping their noses clean and investigating those who ain't. Another important thing to know is that they don't have any actual powers to do anything to the folks they's investigating. All they do is present the reports and findings of their investigations to the House Ethics Committee for further review and actions. Now, that may seem like nothing that should be raising this big of a fuss amongst so many members of the House, but the real kicker comes with what happens when their reports are sent to the House Ethics Committee - they are also made public. Not only are they made public but, according to the terms under which the OCE operates, they must be made public. I'm willing to bet cash money that it's that last part that has so many Representatives frothing at the mouth to get rid of the OCE. (And, in the spirit of the kind of fairness that certain politicians seem to believe in only in word and not deed, both Republicans and Democrats have been gunning to gut the OCE of its powers ever since day one.)
Still, looks like we ain't gotta worry too much 'bout it. Good old President-elect Grump has put an end to the House's shenanigans . . . for now. 'N', in typical Grumpian fashion, he did it with a scathing tweet condemning the Republican members of the House for their actions. He said that, with ever'thing else they got to work on, cutting taxes for the rich and repealing health care for ever'one and all that, did they really want to make this their number one priority? Course, if we take a closer look at what President-elect Grump really said, we might get a difer'nt picture of the whole thing. His exact tweet reads, "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" So, what President-elect Grump seems to be actually saying is that he agrees with the Members of the House that having an independent group making sure they play by the rules is somehow "unfair". It also appears that he is not saying that they shouldn't be trying to gut the OCE's powers - he's just saying they shouldn't be trying to do it right now. The betting on how long it is 'fore they return to this issue and try again at some later date starts now.