In Secret Vote, House Republicans Make it Easier for Big Business to Buy Them Off by Killing Office of Congressional Ethics

by Scott Creighton

UPDATE: An avalanche of bad press on this move has forced the House republicans to backtrack on the plan.

The vote took place in secret, by anonymous ballot and behind closed doors, so it’s not possible to know which representatives approved of the measure.” Huffington Post

In a secret vote held by republicans in the House of Representative late yesterday, the Office of Congressional Ethics has been essentially neutered, giving the swamp critters a lot more leeway when it comes to committing crimes during their tenure. The new congress takes office today. The vote was 119-74.

Hillary Clinton should be proud of their proactive approach as it mirrors her own efforts at skirting potential accountability issues.

“The surprising vote came on the eve of the start of a new session of Congress, where emboldened Republicans are ready to push an ambitious agenda on everything from health care to infrastructure, issues that will be the subject of intense lobbying from corporate interests. The House Republicans’ move would take away both power and independence from an investigative body, and give lawmakers more control over internal inquiries.” Boston Globe

How ironic is it that the first act of the new congress is to kill off the office with the word “ethics” in it’s name?

The Office of Congressional Ethics was set up in March of 2008 in the wake of a slew of very public arrests and convictions of U.S. congressmen busted for selling their influence to Big Business interests.

“It was created after a string of serious ethical cases starting a decade ago, including bribery allegations against Represntatives Duke Cunningham, a California Democrat; William J. Jefferson, a Louisiana Democrat; and Bob Ney, an Ohio Republican. All three were convicted of such abuses, and served time in jail.” Boston Globe

The three criminals break down in this fashion:

Years ago the republicans (and some democrats) wanted the OCE done away with but they feared they wouldn’t have the backing of the president when push came to shove. Now they control both houses in congress and the White House, so the first order of business is apparently making congress more ready to take bribes… from Big Business.

“House Republicans are chortling over the Democratic majority’s troubles with ethics allegations, but they also are ominously signaling their distaste for the Office of Congressional Ethics — the one new player on Capitol Hill with a clear determination to do something about the morass.

The Republican minority leader, John Boehner, said he wants to “take a look” at the office if his party regains majority power — a reminder that his members fiercely opposed the quasi-independent office when it was created two years ago by Speaker Nancy Pelosi.” New York Times, Aug. 2010

And yes, Democrats are just as happy to see the office effectively shuttered:

“The ethics case against Representative Charles Rangel, a Democrat of New York, predates the creation of the ethics office, but he ran afoul of its investigators more recently in being admonished by the House committee for leading a group on a Caribbean junket paid by corporate favor-seekers in violation of House rules.” New York Times, Aug. 2010

Essentially the new rules changes would prohibit the OCE from ever communicating with the public regarding any of their investigations, would keep them from contacting law enforcement and would require them to gain approval from the House Ethics Committee before conducting any investigation of House members.

They will also be prevented from investigating complaints filed from anonymous sources meaning anyone sending them tips will be named and forced to stand before the House Ethics Committee before any investigation even starts. Of course, that will essentially put an end to leaks coming from concerned inside sources since retaliation will certainly be an issue and they all know damn well that the Ethics committee will never allow an investigation to take place.

Is that how the swamp gets drained? Secret votes to crush oversight and accountability in Washington?

Now if they only passed a bill which made it legal for them to all use private email servers in their basements for government business…

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2 Responses

  1. I’m curious how they get to vote in secret? I didn’t realize that was possible.

  2. I don’t think “ironic” is the right term. Emblematic, indicative?

    Something like that.

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