Thursday, November 18, 2010

Boehner Has Always Had Serious Ethics Problems-- They're About To Get Worse


Boehner led the House GOP to an overwhelming victory. At least their, mandateless, shallow victory looks that way superficially-- and, more importantly, on the scorecard that will determine House vote outcomes for the next two years. With the concession of Chamber of Commerce/Wall Street shill Melissa Bean Wednesday, the Republicans have picked up 61 seats held by Democrats since 2008. They are also ahead in counts for three undecided outcomes, two in New York (Dan Maffei and Tim Bishop) and one in Texas (Solomon Ortiz). But the Republicans' good fortune had more to do with voter dissatisfaction with the Democrats-- and especially with disappointment in Obama's failure to fulfill his amorphous, up-for-interpretation campaign themes of Hope and Change-- than with anything the GOP was offering. Virtually every poll shows most voters disliking and not trusting the Republicans-- and most show voters dislike and mistrust them even more than they dislike and mistrust Democrats.

Just the way a runaway extreme right partisan Supreme Court stole the 2000 election for Bush by stopping the Florida recount that showed Al Gore the clear winner, this year the same hackish, partisan Supreme Court judges pulled it out for the GOP and their Big Business patrons by allowing an unregulated flood of foreign and corporate cash into the electoral system-- billions of dollars in murky funds whose only goal was to twist and distort Democrats' positions and to flood the airwaves with messages meant to depress the Democratic vote. It worked. Across the nation-- in red districts and blue-- Republicans turned out in normal numbers and Democrats stayed home. In some districts as many as half the Democrats and left-leaning independents who voted in 2008 chose to not vote this year while GOP and right-leaning independents came out in full force. And yet even under those circumstances, about half the Republican wins were by less than 5%, the signal that a seat is unsafe and will probably get a well-funded challenge. We'll see about that in 2012. Boehner and his cronies know one thing for sure-- they will have a horrifyingly myopic and frighteningly incompetent DCCC to contend with.

I'm guessing that if there was an overriding message the Republicans used as their theme-- other than the vicious and ruthless demonization of Nancy Pelosi-- it was "Where are the jobs?" The orange hued, drunken golfer who is now Speaker-designate-- and who voted for every single outsourcing and job killing "free" trade pact brought before Congress in the past two decades-- never tired of demanding to know where are the jobs. And yet... and yet... his first two initiatives after the election were for more tax breaks for the richest one percent of Americans-- in other words, to continue the middle-class destroying concentration of national wealth in the hands of fewer and fewer families-- and to lead the House Republicans back into their good old days of the Culture of Corruption by destroying the Office of Congressional Ethics.

I'll allow this awesome video of a floor speech yesterday by an unbowed and far from dispirited Alan Grayson to speak to Boehner's wish to bankrupt the federal government with more tax cuts for the rich, and get right to the ethics question below:

The Office of Congressional Ethics was set up by Nancy Pelosi in the wake of the Abramoff scandals that saw dozens of Republican congressmen-- many of whom are still in office-- taking bribes from Abramoff and other sleazy lobbyists. Loathe to prosecute their corrupt colleagues-- at least their white corrupt colleagues-- the House Ethics Committee had to be pushed into action. That's why Pelosi started the highly unpopular-- with corrupt congressmen (of both parties)-- OCE.

Now we're getting reports that Ohio teabaggers are not happy with Boehner's signal to reinstiture the GOP Culture of Corruption regime in the House. Somehow local teabaggers assumed Boehner had changed his spots on corruption when he claimed the Republicans had learned a lesson and would behave. The umbrella group for 58 Ohio tea party affiliates, the Ohio Liberty Council, is already riled up and grousing ominously.
“It they move in the opposite direction of transparency that this office provides, I think we will be very upset about that,” said Chris Littleton, president of the Ohio Liberty Council and the Cincinnati Tea Party. “Symbolically, it’s a huge problem for them … they should be as transparent as they can be. Any opposition to that would be inappropriate on their part.”

Tea Party groups in Ohio first became aware of the OCE after the fiscally conservative group Taxpayers for Common Sense (TCS) made strengthening the office a priority in its transparency and reform agenda for the 112th Congress. Other planks in TCS’s platform include passing budget bills before the beginning of the fiscal year, imposing earmark reforms and abiding by pay-as-you-go, or pay-go, enforcements.

House Republican leaders have supported many of TCS’s reform priorities in their own transparency agenda unveiled since the election. But Boehner has long opposed the ethics office, and many political observers think he will seek to dismantle or seriously weaken it with Republicans in the majority.

...All Republican leaders vigorously opposed the OCE’s creation and tried to defeat the measure in a series of parliamentary tactics Democrats beat back in March of 2008. The bill passed 207-206 after Democratic leaders pressed several reluctant members to vote in favor.

Government watchdog groups strongly support the OCE, which has investigated more than 60 cases and referred a dozen to the House ethics committee for further review. The extent and level of ethics scrutiny the OCE has brought is unprecedented in the House, and several targets of the probes, many of them in the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), and other critics on both sides of the aisle have complained that Pelosi created an entity that has overreached and is out of control.

CBC members have introduced legislation that would curtail the powers of the OCE, and watchdog groups have roundly condemned the proposed modifications.

The ethics office was not set up as a permanent fixture of the House and requires reauthorization at the beginning of each Congress, which will likely be included in a House rules package. Watchdogs fear that Republicans could try to include provisions in the rules package that supercede or gut the OCE in order to obscure or deflect attention from the underlying attempt to weaken the office.

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