In 2008 we saw the Abramoff scandal. During the unraveling of his scam, several members of Congress got caught up on the corruption. As a result, and trying to keep scandal from the halls of Congress, Nancy Pelosi got the House to approve the Office of Congressional Ethics. This was an independent organization responsible to investigate all corruption and ethics complaints.
After the investigation, the OCE would then turn the investigation over to the House Ethics Committee. The Committee would then hold any investigation they deemed necessary based on the primary investigation of the OCE.
The OCE was independent of politics and partisanship. It investigated both Republicans and Democrats who were accused of possible corrupt behavior or at least bad ethical behavior. It actually seemed to work the way it was.
Then Donald Trump showed up and won the presidential election. He promised to “drain the swamp”. which would indicate that he would favor such a group as the OCE to make sure everything was on the up-and-up.
Republicans in the House have echoed that slogan about “draining the swamp” so everything looked good, right? Well, no. I don’t know what swamp Republicans are planning to “drain”, but is sure isn’t in the House of Representatives.
In typical Republican fashion, they held a meeting last night on the eve of the 115th Congress starting to vote out the OCE. You read that correctly, they voted to basically kill the OCE. Now Republicans will tell you that they did not kill the OCE, they simply changed it.
So you can decide for yourself if I am right or not. First, the OCE has been given a new name. It will now be called Office of Congressional Complaint Review. Secondly, it will no longer be “independent” but rather be placed under the thumb of the House Ethics Committee.
Finally, the new group would no longer be able to release information to the public, employ anyone “for a position involving communications with the public,” or directly contact law enforcement without approval. It would also be prohibited from investigating anonymous complaints.
Here is what started this mess. Republicans say the “changes” were necessary because , how unfair, someone could actually make a complaint anonymously out of fear of reprisals.
And we all know that all anonymous complaints are false as Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ), who was once investigated by the OCE said: “Now you can’t make a false accusation. Now you can answer back to the people that make accusations against you. This has been flawed from the very get-go.
The real point is that Republicans want to hold ethics and corruption complaints in secret, just like last nights vote was held in secret and used anonymous votes to pass the new rule. What they are really afraid of is the public finding out if any of them are involved in ethics or corruption cases.
We need to understand that the Ethics Committee has been extremely lax on enforcing ethics rules in the past. It is well-known for giving a slap on the wrist for violations if anything at all. The OCE was supposed to help clean this up. Yet, the final decision was up the Ethics Committee. Only, the OCE report was made public so anyone involved in possible corruption was known to the public. That is called “transparency”.
That seems to be the one word that Republicans hate the most. Transparency means we actually know what they are up to. It means we can actually make intelligent decisions about our elected officials. Yet, in a secret ballot in the middle of the night, Republicans killed the only independent investigative body that worked on keeping ethic and anti-corruption behavior out of the House.
This killing of the OCE was added to rules that the House will vote on this morning. It was added late without any input from anyone but Republicans who hate it.
Daniel Schuman, the policy director of the activist organization Demand Progress said it best”
With today’s action — taken behind closed doors and with no opportunity for public debate — the House now rolls back the clock to an era of corruption and decay. We will all be the worse for it.
Nancy Pelosi said:
Republicans claim they want to ‘drain the swamp,’ but the night before the new Congress gets sworn in, the House GOP has eliminated the only independent ethics oversight of their actions. Evidently, ethics are the first casualty of the new Republican Congress.
As I said, The Office of Congressional Ethics was established in early 2008 after a number of scandals ― including the Jack Abramoff controversy of exchanging gifts and donations for votes. The OCE issues public reports of potential wrongdoing with a recommendation to the Ethics Committee on whether to investigate further. This system has allowed the public a view into some investigations that the Ethics Committee later says are not worthy of reprimand. Which is common from a panel that often operates on a partisan doctrine of mutually assured destruction.
Maybe the fact that Donald Trump has said he is going to “drain the swamp” and then nominated Wall Street billionaires to be in his cabinet gave the House the sense that he really didn’t mean it. At least in the House of Representatives, the Republicans are not interested in draining the swamp or keeping corruption and ethics investigations transparent.
The night before the new Congress is sworn into office, while practically no one was watching, Republicans have decided that they don’t need any stinking Office of Congressional Ethics making sure they behave properly. Ironically, these Republicans are mostly worried about anonymous complaints and call them witch-hunts. An odd choice of words from a Party that has been on a witch-hunt against Democrats for years, especially Hillary Clinton.
Isn’t it funny that anonymous complaints against Clinton are gospel and anonymous complaints about unethical behavior by members of the Hose are witch-hunts?
Maybe since Trump claims that he cannot have any conflict of interests as President according to the Law, the House Republicans think they should have the same immunity? Both are lies of course, but since when has that stopped Republicans from instituting their sick agenda. Yesterday I said we need to keep our eyes on Congress even more than on Trump. Here is your proof.
Secrecy will be the hallmark of this Republican Congress. Something that a democracy cannot allow to happen. Keep watching, the worst is still to come.