Patterico's Pontifications

1/3/2017

First New Year Decision: House GOP Moves For Less Accountability And Transparency

Filed under: General — Dana @ 10:42 am



[guest post by Dana]

[Ed. note: I wrote this post earlier this morning. Since then, there has been an update to the story. I’m publishing the original post, and will include the update at the end of it.]

According to reports, GOP House rank-and-file members have moved to gut the Office of Congressional Ethics:

In one of their first moves of the new Congress, House Republicans have voted to gut their own independent ethics watchdog — a huge blow to cheerleaders of congressional oversight and one that dismantles major reforms adopted after the Jack Abramoff scandal.

Despite a warning from Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), House Republicans adopted a proposal by Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) to put the Office of Congressional Ethics under the jurisdiction of the House Ethics Committee.

The office currently has free rein, enabling investigators to pursue allegations and then recommend further action to the House Ethics Committee as they see fit.

Now, the office would be under the thumb of lawmakers themselves. The proposal also appears to limit the scope of the office’s work by barring them from considering anonymous tips against lawmakers. And it would stop the office from disclosing the findings of some of their investigations, as they currently do after the recommendations go to House Ethics.

The report also states that the organizers of the amendment were individuals “who felt they had been wrongfully accused of unethical behavior by the OCE.”

While it remains to be seen just how big of an impact this change will actually have in real time, the optics of it are unarguably bad. Any veering away from transparency and accountability is but an inevitable move toward potential corruption and cover-up. Even the appearance of such should be stridently avoided by the GOP. And if nothing else, how about Republicans, right out the gate, go with demonstrating a little good faith effort “drain the swamp,” rather than keep it clogged up with political sewage?

To his credit, President-elect Trump expressed his displeasure, and publicly admonished Republicans:

untitled

untitled

For clarity: It appears Trump is not necessarily objecting to the vote itself, but rather the priority it’s been given in light of weightier issues deserving and demanding Republicans’ attention. Obviously, he is right, and good for him to point this out.

UPDATE: It is now being reported that Republicans have scrapped their plans:

House Republicans have dropped plans to gut the independent ethics office after widespread criticism and questions from President-elect Donald Trump about GOP priorities.

In a reversal, the House GOP decided on Tuesday to strip the provision from a package of rule changes that lawmakers will vote on later in the day.

Said Rep. Tom Cole of Oklahoma: ‘‘People didn’t want this story on opening day.’’

–Dana

50 Responses to “First New Year Decision: House GOP Moves For Less Accountability And Transparency”

  1. Well, that was quick.

    Dana (d17a61)

  2. “more weightier?”

    Tillman (a95660)

  3. Got it.

    Dana (d17a61)

  4. Kudos to Trump.

    DRJ (15874d)

  5. So the House Republicans CAN be embarrassed.

    First they wanted to bring back earmarks, and now this.

    At least they are having second thoughts.

    Gabriel Hanna (64d4e1)

  6. Tonedeaf is no way to begin 2017.

    Colonel Haiku (94c32c)

  7. 4… I admit I ruined my keyboard…

    Colonel Haiku (94c32c)

  8. Trump Thumps Chumps.

    Well done, Donald.

    DCSCA (797bc0)

  9. But of course here’s the REAL news for Trumpsters: Megyn Kelly to go to NBC!

    Of course, we all know Megyn Kelly is as much a journalist as Lois Lane, Brenda Starr, Miss Polly Purebred, Ted Baxter and Ron Burgundy. She will do some kind of daytime show and some half-azzed prime time magazine. For $20 million– like four or five Super Bowl commercials.

    Kelly is what… 48… an old hen among a lot of younger, hotter chicks at Fox which make for sweeter eye candy. And if Fox really wanted to keep her around, they would have. But she was fast becoming another Rita Cosby there.

    But let’s be clear: midday and ‘prime time’ TV chat and magazine shows are not journalism. They’re entertainment. And as Trumpsters all know, Americans don’t want to be governed, they wish to be entertained.

    DCSCA (797bc0)

  10. none of this is to say that the way it’s set up now is optimal

    we know skanky pigsniffers like nancy pelosi and george soros and a low-class ex-president p.o.s. like barack obama will abuse abuse abuse the ethics infrastructure as much as humanly possible

    it’s what they do

    I think this was a good faith effort to take that cudgel away

    remember the anderson cooper propaganda slut media is 100% in the pocket of the pigsniffers

    so abuse of these kinds of processes is all one-sided in favor of the pigsniffers

    happyfeet (28a91b)

  11. As somebody up there said, at least SOME of the Republican half of the UniParty is capable of being shamed. It’s a start.

    Doo-Dah, Doo-Dah (3e9ab6)

  12. House Republicans have dropped plans to gut the independent ethics office after widespread criticism and questions from President-elect Donald Trump about GOP priorities.

    Good to see the Boston Globe giving credit to Trump for slapping the hired help around, reminding them who their boss is. And here I had foolish hopes that the media might suddenly find an interest in reminding Congress they’re a co-equal branch of government rather than the President’s rubber stamp and they don’t have to just sit around awaiting instructions from the Oval Office and whatever bozo happens to inhabit it.

    (But of course if Congress and the GOP had any sort of will to act on their own, Trump wouldn’t even be President.)

    Jerryskids (3308c1)

  13. Trump gets credit from Dana and me but I assume the mainline Trump supporters will remain silent on this topic. Because, as they remind us all too frequently, nothing Trump does matters until he is inaugurated.

    DRJ (15874d)

  14. @DRJ: nothing Trump does matters until he is inaugurated.

    I thought you and Dana were supposed to read into Trump’s tweets all the other stuff he’d ever said, consistent with your judgment of his character, and then recharacterize the tweet in that light, adding in a bunch of stuff Trump didn’t say, like you did a couple of days ago.

    Alternatively, instead of another round of “AHA! I caught you going against your principles”, we can all start talking about what we ourselves think, instead of just trying to catch people out being inconsistent.

    Gabriel Hanna (64d4e1)

  15. This is a situation where a prudent decision was overwhelmed by uninformed politics.

    To have an “independent” watchdog office that answers to no one, without any oversight of its budget or actions, creates an unguided missile in the middle of the legislature.

    Its not like its been around for 150 years — it was created by Nancy Pelosi and the Dems in 2008. And while they can call it “nonpartisan” and “independent”, look at the way it operates and you can tell that’s not true.

    Its run by an 8 person board. Currently there are 7 positions filled on the board. Of the 7, you have 3 former Dem. members of the House, and one former GOP member of the house. The other 3 are:

    The other board members, as well as the staff members listed on the website all have political backgrounds. Mostly they were senior members of staff of senior Cong. officials, including from Steny Hoyer’s office.

    There are staffers that seem to come from both sides of the political aisle, but its clear that the composition of the Board and original staff hiring was done by Dems.

    You already have a bipartisan Ethics Committee in each chamber, and criminal investigators at DOJ.
    This is just another bureaucracy that needs to justify its existence.

    shipwreckedcrew (56b591)

  16. @shipwreckedcrew:This is a situation where a prudent decision was overwhelmed by uninformed politics.

    Are you telling me that the media mischaracterized this to make Republicans look bad?

    Get out.

    Gabriel Hanna (64d4e1)

  17. And its just dumb in the way it’s internal procedures have been designed:

    It can open an inquiry into anonymous allegations if if has “reasonable cause” to believe the allegations are true. That leads to a 30 day review. To proceed to a second level review, that 30 day review must determine there is “probable cause” to believe the allegations are true. That leads to a further 45 day review, at the end of which it must send a report to the Cong. Ethics Comm, with a recommendation for or against further review by the Committee. If it recommends further review, its report is made public. If it recommends against further review, it has the discretion to not release the report to the public.

    So you have dozens of such reports now laying around various Congressional offices after just 8 years.

    shipwreckedcrew (56b591)

  18. @shipwreckedcrew: you have dozens of such reports now laying around various Congressional offices after just 8 years.

    I know you’ve worked in government for a long time. But the media told us that this was an independent ethics panel. I don’t what kind of person could possibly be against that, unless you’re one of those Putin-loving partisans I’m always hearing about.

    Gabriel Hanna (64d4e1)

  19. Why couldn’t just revise the composition of the board, they do have a taste for shoe leather.

    narciso (d1f714)

  20. You are the one who recharacterizes comments, Gabriel. I defer to you on that topic since you are so good at it.

    DRJ (15874d)

  21. Could they have pulled this off in a more hamhanded way possible.

    narciso (d1f714)

  22. You are intelligent, Gabriel. It would be nice if you made a good faith effort to understand other points of view. You are the one playing Gotcha most of the time. It is discouraging.

    DRJ (15874d)

  23. My feeling is that scrapping this change is not good. And a multiplication of ethics rules doesn’t prevent anything unethical from occuring; it just gets inexperienced people into trouble. While the most experienced people can usually get around all kinds of rules. Case in point: Hillary Clinton.

    Sammy Finkelman (eb0eea)

  24. Only 17 more shopping days until Mr Donald’s inauguration party.
    Neither that nasty Barack or that nasty Hillary will be living in the White House after January 20!
    So, let’s party like it’s 2017!

    Cruz Supporter (102c9a)

  25. They’ve had the majority for six years, why did they not change the composition, back when they had more members.

    narciso (d1f714)

  26. Thanks for the great perspective, shipwreckedcrew. It sounded to me like the GOP’s plans to curtail the ability to file anonymous complaints was reasonable given the circumstances. I can easily see a coordinated effort along the following lines:

    * Democrat operatives anonymously file bogus charges against Republican leadership team members
    * Detailes of the charges and investigation are leaked to Democrat-friendly media outlets
    * Left-wing columnists and bloggers have a field day decrying the “culture of corruption”
    * The committee decides in the end not to recommend charges against the Republican congressperson
    * The Democrat-friendly media downplays the idea that the charges were an orchestrated attack by partisans

    It’s true, though, that the timing of this announcement was badly chosen. I guess the GOP is still tone-deaf on messaging.

    JVW (6e49ce)

  27. contemporary thinkings on ethics from skanky pelosi’s california

    Why California Must Accept More Corruption

    Raise a glass and bend your mind around this California New Year’s resolution: In 2017, let’s become more tolerant of political corruption.

    While the idea may sound strange, so are the ways we make decisions in California.

    Over the last century, we’ve designed a highly complex government with the primary goal of preventing corruption by limiting the power and discretion of elected and appointed officials. All these obstacles have worked to a point. We have a low rate of public corruption convictions by American standards.

    But perversely, in keeping our government clean of politicians’ small crimes, we’ve opted to accept large-scale, incapacitating societal wrongs. In California, among the richest places on earth, we tolerate America’s highest poverty rate, a massive and expanding shortage of affordable housing and dangerously decayed roads and waterworks. Our schools offer too little education and our tax system, by bipartisan acknowledgment, isn’t fair.

    happyfeet (28a91b)

  28. JVW (6e49ce) — 1/3/2017 @ 12:59 pm

    Democrat operatives anonymously file bogus charges against Republican leadership team members

    Didn’t that happen with the IRS?

    Except that your last point didn’t happen, because the Obama Administration, or feeral judges, couldn’t be accused of covering up for conservatives. But I think it happened in the past.

    It is complicated by the fact that some rules can be stretched so as to prohibit certain things, or make life impractical. Sarah Palin was actually forced to resign as Governor of Alaska because of basically trumped up ethics charges because she could not, in an “ethical” manner, raise money to defend herself.

    Sammy Finkelman (eb0eea)

  29. 25. narciso (d1f714) — 1/3/2017 @ 12:56 pm

    They’ve had the majority for six years, why did they not change the composition, back when they had more members.

    they were maybe not worried taht Democrats wold use ethics charges as a frm of partisan warfre, but now they see already beinbg used aaginst Donald Trump – I mean in such a way that theer’s no way he can do things right.

    Sammy Finkelman (eb0eea)

  30. JVW,

    I don’t think it’s just a matter of Republicans having been tone-deaf. This also demonstrated, right out the gate, the relationship between members and leadership. That could speak to greater problems here on out, and is in itself, a warning to Ryan and McCarthy.

    Dana (d17a61)

  31. I thought you and Dana were supposed to read into Trump’s tweets all the other stuff he’d ever said, consistent with your judgment of his character, and then recharacterize the tweet in that light, adding in a bunch of stuff Trump didn’t say, like you did a couple of days ago.

    Alternatively, instead of another round of “AHA! I caught you going against your principles”, we can all start talking about what we ourselves think, instead of just trying to catch people out being inconsistent.

    Clearly, Gabriel, you’ve once again thought wrong.

    If you would only take the time and have the patience to set aside your own preferences to thoughtfully consider what actually informs others’ points of view that are not in agreement with yours.

    Dana (d17a61)

  32. @Dana:Clearly, Gabriel, you’ve once again thought wrong.

    Clearly your irony module is on the fritz…

    Gabriel Hanna (64d4e1)

  33. I admit I was freaking at the bad PR this morning and still am to an extent. WHAT in hell were they thinking!!!? But after I read Jim Geraghty’s piece (written before the pullback) I felt better about the merits and saw this more clearly as yet another media freak-out based on well, the media freaking out. The stench of the idiocy of the timing and the Republicans’ self enforced error right out of the box remains, however.

    But apparently it’s impossible to just say that this is a small setback for oversight of Congressional ethics, or just a bad decision. No, in keeping with the Defcon One, Category-Five Permanent Social Media Freak-out, this has to be the worst decision ever. Vox warns the decision “could signal a wider acceptance of corruption.” “Back to the auction house!” cries Josh Marshall. Paul Krugman concludes, “we are entering an era of epic corruption.” (Remember, he said the concerns about the Clinton Foundation were “bizarre.”)

    It would be better if the House had that independent entity that could issue a public report, rather than giving the House Ethics Committee complete control over what gets released to the public. But the notion that this change legalizes corruption or represents some sort of enormous sweeping change is another triumph of the narrative over the facts.

    http://www.nationalreview.com/morning-jolt/443477/congressional-ethics-watchdog-changed-gop-washington-post-spreads-fake-news

    elissa (151923)

  34. ..but that’s the problem with the online style of discourse, isn’t it? With all the tone trolling and the “if you said this you must be thinking that and instead you said the other which makes you inconsistent and therefore wrong on an unrelated issue”, not to mention the accusations of supporting Putin, figuring out what a person actually thinks gets a little tough.

    Gabriel Hanna (64d4e1)

  35. Let’s just see hoe DJT treats the various IG’s throughout the various executive agencies. If you think he is going to restore their power and that he will vigorously support their independence, you are cray cray.

    For how many months were we made to endure the HRC “investigations” without an independent prosecutor? It is no coincidence that GOPe leadership stood mute on that point. Thick as thieves. All of them.

    Ed from SFV (3400a5)

  36. #34 Mr Hanna, sometimes even Happy New Year! gets twisted into I want to lock up all my enemies in prison! (LOL)

    Cruz Supporter (102c9a)

  37. Did the house GOP really think they’d get away with this? No public debate, just sneak it in?
    They’re trying to retake what the Democrats recently stole from them; the title of “The Party of Stupid.”

    I’m pleasantly surprised that Trump got involved as he did.

    I do see the point some raise, that he should have handled this privately. However, we don’t actually know whether he tried that. Perhaps going public was the only way. And even if not, it was deserved.

    Arizona CJ (191c8a)

  38. They weren’t “sneaking” anything in.

    At the start of every Congressional session, both houses of Congress pass rules packages.

    The Ethics Office was a creation of a rules package in 2008. Changing its character and protocol would be part of a rules package.

    They didn’t have to do it today, that’s the error. They could have waited and done it at any time.

    And because it deals only with the internal workings of the House, no hearings are necessary. The package was presented to the caucus, and the caucus voted in support. The expectation would be that when the House as a whole voted on it, the entire caucus would support — even those who voted against it in caucus — it since it was passed by the caucus.

    It was not “legislation” in the normal way we think of it.

    shipwreckedcrew (8aced3)

  39. shipwreckedcrew (8aced3) — 1/3/2017 @ 3:23 pm

    It was not “legislation” in the normal way we think of it.

    Sometimes rules changes are included in legislation.

    For instance “fast track” trade authority involves each House of Congress passing rules changes, along with the bill.

    Sammy Finkelman (eb0eea)

  40. @Dana:Clearly, Gabriel, you’ve once again thought wrong.

    Clearly your irony module is on the fritz…
    Gabriel Hanna (64d4e1) — 1/3/2017 @ 2:29 pm

    Clown nose on, or off? You decide.

    felipe (023cc9)

  41. The problem with our GOPe legislators is that they continued to call this panel the Office of Congressional Ethics without ever realizing that this was a non sequitur. You can’t expect to win a war of words if you allow your opponent to choose the words. A more accurate name might be the Democrat Working Group to Use Innuendo and Out of Context Quotes from Illegal Phone Taps to Embarrass Republicans Whose Operation is Funded with Tax Payer Money.

    The ethics panel was quite comfortable with Democrats stashing cash bribes amongst the frozen fish in their office refrigerators until the FBI stumbled onto the practice. And the reality was that this “Office” was the mask Democrats wore when they wished to engage in highly unethical behavior. The GOPe is such a collection of self righteous fools.

    BobStewartatHome (822f64)

  42. I’m okay with doing away with ridding Congress from the ethics committee in exchange for ridding us from the IRS.

    windbag (e4384a)

  43. How about that President-elect and his grasp of the situation right out of the box?

    He said I know the GOP has got legitimate beef, but let that one simmer while we do real things. We’ll circle back to it later.

    Perfect tone. Get the donks and their enablers in a froth over weightier issues first will grease the skids for these little nit picks in the eye of the public.

    The Donald’s got it covered. Firm hand on the rudder.

    papertiger (c8116c)

  44. Did anybody hear about Al Sharpton getting his Visa revoked? Apparently Obama signed a bill making it at the State Depts discretion for a tax cheat more than $50k in arrears being allowed to leave the country.

    The O recognized Sharpton as a flight risk. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=92TIXEbQof4

    papertiger (c8116c)

  45. … figuring out what a person actually thinks gets a little tough.

    Not if you ask them what they mean. It is hard to know what Trump means, but here we can ask each other.

    DRJ (15874d)

  46. Political capital. The Congresscritters want to spend it on what’s important to them, Trump on what’s important to him.

    nk (dbc370)

  47. A story from the-site-that-can’t-be-named shows that the Democrats wanted to gut the Office of Congressional Ethics in 2010.

    Note aside: Who would want their business card to read “Office of Congressional Ethics”?

    Kevin M (25bbee)

  48. They strongly fined Charles Rangel for his evading a million dollars in taxable Dominican property right, so to cited warren Starr ‘what was it good for’

    narciso (d1f714)

  49. The Wall Street Journal had an editorial yesterday about the FDA drug consulting panels, which goes to the question of unacknowledged conflicts of interest (it’s not just from companies) and today their editorial is about this itself.

    It also turns out that the objections to this so-called ethics panel are not theoretical, but based on experience, and even an anti-Trump columnist for the New York Times, Frank Bruni, acknowledges
    that.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/03/opinion/donald-trumps-disastrous-example.html

    The Office of Congressional Ethics is no model operation. Democrats as well as Republicans have chafed at what some of them see as its occasional overzealousness and disregard for due process. Had House Republicans called for a bipartisan and transparent review of its role and tactics, they might not have encountered all that much resistance.

    Welll, maybe they would then have had some courage.

    Reading a description of how it is set up, it looks to me like this could have been set up in such a way so as to catch untrue and amateur ethics problems, but enable the really, really, corrupt people to escape. Nancy Pelosi only set it up in 2008, at least a full tear after the Democrats gained control of Congress, and that could mean that they spent time planning it so it would not hurt the people who knew exactly how to manuever around it, and intimidate the media.

    Sammy Finkelman (eb0eea)

  50. @Kevin M: Yes, back when the effort to gut the office was being spearheaded by the Congressional Black Caucus, the media reported on it very differently.

    Gabriel Hanna (64d4e1)


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