Tuesday, January 3, 2017

House GOP nukes ethics (updated)

The first work day of 2017 and the House GOP shows what its priorities are for the 115th congress:
House Republicans voted 119-74 Monday evening to all but eliminate the Office of Congressional Ethics. Right now, it’s an independent office, created after lobbyist Jack Abramoff pled guilty to trying to bribe members of Congress, that can investigate allegations of corruption and unethical behavior and disclose its findings to the public.
House Republicans voted on a measure Monday night — on a federal holiday, with no advance public notice, and reportedly despite opposition from leaders Paul Ryan and Kevin McCarthy — that would eliminate both the office’s independence and its ability to communicate with the public. The full House of Representatives will vote on the proposal Tuesday as part of a new package of Congressional rules.
The Office of Congressional Ethics would no longer be independent: House Republicans voted to put it under the control of the House Ethics Committee, meaning that lawmakers — and in practice, the Republican majority — would be in charge of the office that’s supposed to be investigating them.
The office would no longer be allowed to speak to the public independently and would be formally barred from hiring a spokesperson, according to a draft of the rules change obtained by the New York Times.
The House committee could force the office to stop an investigation at any time, and the office would be prevented from accepting and investigating anonymous tips. The office would no longer be able to relay an issue to law enforcement if it determines a crime is committed.
And the new rules would rename it the Office of Congressional Complaint Review, rather than the Office of Congressional Ethics, as if to underscore its utter lack of importance. (Who doesn’t have some kind of complaint about Congress?)
What's next for the GOP---using tax money to pay for Panama lawyers to arrange for money laundering?

updated: they took it back---for now. But two lessons from this episode: first, there is nothing too sneaky or low that the GOP caucus won't try doing it and two, calling your congresspeople can be effective.

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