Friday, December 31, 2004

While they're gutting the ethics rules... 'bout leaving my Congressman alone?

The House Republicans just can't find enough ways to demonstrate their arrogance, it seems. The latest example is their wholesale raid on the rules that they apply to themselves. One of their proposed changes would...
...essentially negate a general rule of conduct that the ethics committee has often cited in admonishing lawmakers -- including Majority Leader Tom DeLay -- for bringing discredit on the House even if their behavior was not covered by a specific regulation. Backers of the rule, adopted three decades ago, say it is important because the House's conduct code cannot anticipate every instance of questionable behavior that might reflect poorly on the chamber.
Rising vacation costs seem to be a problem, too, since they also want to...
...relax a restriction on relatives of lawmakers accepting foreign and domestic trips from groups interested in legislation before the House.
Of course, you have to have some rules, but that doesn't mean you have to have any enforcement...
A third proposed rule change would allow either party to stop the House ethics committee from investigating a complaint against a member.
The utter hypocricy of their actions is revealed by news like this...
WASHINGTON - The U.S. House ethics committee announced yesterday that it would investigate a complaint against Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Seattle.

Ohio Republican Rep. David Hobson filed an ethics complaint Nov. 16 alleging that McDermott had violated certain laws, rules and standards of conduct when he leaked an illegally intercepted cellphone tape in 1997.
Jim McDermott is my Congressman, so my interest is personal, but we should all be rising up in his defense

What's the rule they're trying to hang him on?
The subcommittee will determine whether McDermott violated the House Code of Official Conduct, which states members must behave "at all times in a manner which shall reflect creditably on the House of Representatives."
For those of you who've been been distracted by intervening events, Tom Delay's multiple ethics violations, for instance, since 1997, let's review.

At the time, then-Speaker Newt Gingrich was the subject of an ethics complaint, one which ultimately resulted in a fine and reprimand. As Speaker, he swore that he wouldn't use his authority to influence the investigation, but when a Florida couple happened to intercept a cell call between Gingrich and his leadership team, Newt was caught in a lie. The couple recorded the call and turned it over to McDermott, who, as a member of the Ethics Committee at the time, provided evidence of the Speaker's dishonesty to the press.

Now who, in that situation, failed to "reflect credibility on the House of Representatives"? The lying Speaker or the whistle-blowing Congressman? Please.

The whole matter is still in the courts, thanks to a suit filed by Ohio Republican John Boehner, who's been judge shopping for years until finally finding a ruling in his favor this October. (Funny how using trial lawyers to tie up the courts and drive up the costs of our legal system is only bad when people are injured by corporations, isn't it?) Boehmer's only apparent injury was to his reputation, which was besmirched when he was exposed as a co-conspirator in Gingrich's lies. It seems that his reputation is worth $60,000 plus attorney fees (over a half a million to Boehmer's trial lawyer in this case). That's still subject to appeal, and I still expect the First Amendment to prevail.

A lot of folks hereabouts like to poke fun at our "Congressman for life." Some question his influence and effectiveness, since he often finds himself in the progressive minority on important issues like single payer health care and his steadfast opposition to Bushco's expansionist and disasterous foreign policy.

The fact that the House Republicans think he's important enough to drag up this old news in an effort to punish and embarrass my Congressman speaks for itself, though. They wouldn't be out to get Jim McDermott if he wasn't an important voice in the Congress.

We probably can't stop them from throwing out the rules, but every one of us should be raising hell until they throw out this case.


Anonymous Anonymous said...


4:18 AM  

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