Ethics

Opinion: “First, they came for the donor lists…”

Emboldened by the response to my piece last week, I put on my political theorist hat this weekend and penned another editorial that has now been published in The Daily Caller. Here’s an excerpt:

“Don’t we all have a right to know,” asks Obama campaign manager Jim Messina in a recent fundraising email, “exactly which corporations and individuals are spending millions in attack ads to influence elections – and what their agendas are?” While we should expect this type of rhetoric from bullies who think that the government should force workers to give up their right to a secret ballot in unionization proceedings, making it easier for Democratic supporters to rake new campaign funds from their peers’ paychecks, this is one of those times when “No” is a complete, forceful, and declarative sentence.

But in fairness to Messina, to whom I wish a swift and humiliating trip to the unemployment line this November, we should (for a moment) take his claim at face value. We should ask, “Upon what moral principle” – we’re talking about rights, after all – “is this ‘right to know’ predicated?”

Help Wanted: Seeking the Washingtons and Jeffersons of Today

“Liberty cannot be preserved without a general knowledge among the people, who have a right, from the frame of their nature, to knowledge, as their great Creator, who does nothing in vain, has given them understandings, and a desire to know; but besides this, they have a right, an indisputable, unalienable, indefeasible, divine right to that most dreaded and envied kind of knowledge; I mean, of the characters and conduct of their rulers.” - John Adams, Dissertation on the Canon and Feudal Law, 1756

This week I had a discussion with a new friend about politics and the state of our nation. I was commenting on the corruption so rampant in government and he replied that we can no longer expect politicians to have integrity, and must be content to pick between the least corrupt of the candidates, or the ones that will direct the fruits of that corruption towards us.

Such cynicism is certainly understandable; just look at the politicians of our day. Bill Clinton’s legacy will forever be linked to a stained blue dress and what the definition of “is” is. Al Gore is a billionaire, becoming the false-prophet of fear mongering with the junk science of global warming (or “climate change” as it is now called). Charlie Rangel, Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, the most powerful committee chair in government which controls tax policy, is under investigation for tax fraud. Our Treasury Secretary is an admitted tax cheat, and many in Obama’s cabinet and senior staff have also had tax troubles. Ted Kennedy was a notorious drunk and a womanizer.

Tea Party Patriots hits Harry Reid with an ethics complaint for using Senate resources to fuel his Koch addiction

Tea Party Patriots has hit Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) with an ethics complaint over his ridiculous attacks on Charles and David Koch, libertarian billionaires who have contributed millions to both political and philanthropic causes:

Jenny Beth Martin, the co-founder of Tea Party Patriots, filed the complaint, charging Reid with “unlawfully and unethically targeting private citizens.”

The complaint further states that Reid “has misused Senate staff or resources to engage in partisan campaign activity in violation of federal laws and Senate rules.”
[…]
“It’s been generations since a member of the Senate has abused the power of his office to attack private citizens the way Harry Reid has sought to vilify Charles and David Koch,” Martin said.

She said Reid’s tactics are “nothing more than a continuation of the thuggish intimidation campaign mounted by the Obama administration to target and silence people and organizations Democrats disagree with.”

Tea Party Patriots also filed an ethics complaint against Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) for “improper conduct,” pointing to the pressure he put on the Internal Revenue Service and Justice Department to prosecute Tea Party and conservative groups.

MT Senate: Ad hits John Walsh on ethics controversy

American Crossroads hits John Walsh

John Walsh, Montana’s newly minted Democratic senator, is being hit over an ethics controversy dating back to his time as adjutant general of the state’s National Guard in a six-figure ad buy from American Crossroads, a conservative political action committee.

“Max Baucus, a 35-year legacy of service,” says the narrator. “Gov. Bulloch could have chosen anyone. Why John Walsh?”

The ad cuts away to news footage from a late-December KXLH story on the controversy, in which the news anchor reports that “a Department of Defense report says that Walsh improperly used his government position for personal gain.”

The questions about Walsh stem from an August 2010 U.S. Army inspector general report which found that the then-adjutant general of the Montana National Guard had improperly used his office for “private gain.”

New Healthcare.gov contractor’s history rife with tech problems, ethical issues

The new contractor for the federal Obamacare exchange, Healthcare.gov, comes with a sketchy history, according to a weekend report from the Washington Post, one filled with technical problems and allegations of ethical issues.

In January, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) fired CGI Federal, the contractor initially tasked with the construction of Healthcare.gov, including the website and backend systems, after the disastrous rollout. The department tasked with implementing the law tapped Accenture to take over the project, bypassing the competitive bidding process.

Though the change in contractors is a sign that the administration is “doing something” to get past the botched rollout of Healthcare.gov, the Washington Post explains that Accenture has a history of problems with state and federal contractors (emphasis added):

Accenture, the contractor urgently tapped to help fix the federal health-insurance Web site, is a favorite of corporate America but has a record that includes troubled projects and allegations of ethical lapses, a review of the consulting giant’s history shows.

MT Senate: Ethics questions dog Democratic frontrunner

Democrats had hope that Lt. Gov. John Walsh (D-MT) would give them a shot at keeping control of a Senate seat that seems poised to be taken by Republicans later this year. But Harry Reid’s hand-picked candidate is facing questions over an alleged impropriety that occurred when he oversaw the Montana National Guard.

With Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) slated to serve as President Barack Obama’s next Ambassador to China, it looked as though Walsh would get a boost in the race with an appointment to the Senate by Gov. Steve Bullock (D-MT). But the questions over Walsh’s behavior could set him back in what needs to be an error-free campaign.

The questions about Walsh stem from an August 2010 U.S. Army inspector general report which found that the then-adjutant general of the Montana National Guard had improperly used his office for “private gain.”

“The [inspector general] report says Walsh improperly solicited other Guard leaders to join a non-governmental group, the National Guard Association of the United States (NGAUS),” reported Helena-based KXLH-TV. “Walsh wanted to boost Montana Guard membership in that association because he was running for vice-chairman of the group.”

The report described Walsh’s emails to colleagues as “coercive” and that he had “improperly used government resources,” including his federally-issued computer, to send emails on behalf of NGAUS. The news outlet points out that one of his subordinates described Walsh’s conduct as “very threatening.”

Jimmy Carter’s grandson to run for Governor of Georgia

 Creative Loafing

State Sen. Jason Carter (D-Decatur), the grandson of former President Jimmy Carter, announced yesterday that he would run for Governor of Georgia next year, taking on the incumbent, Gov. Nathan Deal (R-GA), who has been hit with accusations of scandal in his administration.

Carter, who was first elected to the state Senate in 2010, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that he’s running because of Georgia’s education system and economy, he believes, are faltering.

“We can’t wait as a state,” said Carter in an interview with the paper. “The bottom line is we can’t afford four more years of an economy that’s not working for the middle class and an education system that’s underfunded. It’s not about politics. It’s about making sure we can get the state that we need.”

Georgia will spend $7.4 billion on education in FY 2014, which is 37% of the $19.8 billion budget the legislature passed earlier this year. After adding local and federal resources to dollars provided by the state, schools in the state have more than $18 billion to spend on education, according to 2011 numbers provided the Census Bureau.

Proposal to bring back earmarks is withdrawn

There has been some talk over the last year that House Republicans would bring back earmarks, a line-items in spending bills for specific districts or for favored constituencies. The process is scrutinized by fiscal conservatives because there is little sunlight in the process by which earmarks are included in spending bills and most projects are wasteful in their nature.

House Republicans place a moratorium on earmarks when they took control of the chamber in 2011. There were reports early this year, however, that some members were making a push to bring back the pernicious practice, perhaps as a way to influence members of either side to support legislation they may otherwise oppose.

Rep. Don Young (R-AK), a long-time proponent of earmarking and an apologist for the “Bridge to Nowhere,” was planning to introduce a measure to change House rules that would lift the ban. But pressure from Speaker John Boehner led Young to withdraw the proposal:

Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) withdrew an amendment to House GOP rules under pressure from Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), who had made his opposition to the measure clear. The measure would have allowed an exception to the earmark ban if the recipient of the earmark was a unit of local government.

A source close to the Speaker told The Hill the Young amendment would have created “a gaping loophole” to the earmark ban.

“At the end of the day, he declined to offer it because of the clear opposition in the room,” the source said. “Prior to Young pulling the amendment, the Speaker had let it be known that he opposed the amendment and would ask for its defeat if offered.”

Charlie Rangel found guilty of ethics violations

A day after embarrasing himself in front of the subcommittee hearing his ethics case, Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-NY) was found guilty of 11 counts:

Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.), once one of the most powerful members of the House, was convicted Tuesday on 11 counts of violating ethics rules and now faces punishment.

Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), the chairwoman of the adjudicatory subcommittee and the full House ethics committee, announced the decision late Tuesday morning following an abbreviated public trial and nearly six hours of deliberations.

“We have tried to act with fairness, led only by the facts and the law,” Lofgren said. “We believe we have accomplished that mission.”

The full ethics panel will now convene a sanctions hearing to recommend a punishment, which ethics experts say will most likely be a reprimand or formal censure. The ethics committee had yet to announce by Tuesday afternoon when the hearing would occur.

Serious sanctions — including formal reprimand, censure or expulsion — require a vote on the House floor. Expulsion requires a two-thirds vote, while a reprimand, to which Rangel refused to agree in July, or a censure would need only a simple majority. The ethics panel could also impose a fine and deny some of Rangel’s House privileges.

Rangel, who is a lawyer, claimed that he was being treated unfairly because he wasn’t allowed time to find legal counsel, despite being under investigate for two years and charged with these 13 counts since July. So yeah, I’m not buying what he is saying.

Here is video of him playing the victim to the subcommittee on Monday:

Voters see an unethical Congress

Despite promising “the most honest, most open, most ethical Congress in history,” voters don’t believe that Speaker Nancy Pelosi has kept her word:

Most voters think Congress’s ethics have gotten worse in the past two years, according to a new poll in key battleground districts.

The finding suggests that people likely to have a big say in who controls the House in the next Congress believe that Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has failed to keep her 2006 promise to “drain the swamp” of congressional corruption.

The Hill/ANGA 2010 Midterm Election Poll finds that 57 percent of likely voters in 12 competitive districts believe that the ethical situation on Capitol Hill has deteriorated since President Obama took office. Thirty-two percent of respondents say there has been no change, and only 7 percent claim it has improved.

Though it was released before this poll, a recent follow-up on this claim by the Associated Press founds the sentiment of the voter to be accurate, as several Democratic representatives are currently facing ethics accusations and charges, including Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-NY) and Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA).

There have been some reforms, but the ethics issues still remain.


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