Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Goodlatte's Unethical Ethics Proposal Killed

Rep. Bob Goodlatte: Above the law?
(UPDATE: Just before the House of Representative began its 2017 session today, a wildly controversial provision that would have stripped ethical oversight of House members was dropped from Republicans' new rules. Even conservative Judicial Watch called Roanoke Rep. Bob Goodlatte's proposal  “shameful.”

(A combination of almost universal criticism and angry citizen calls doomed the proposal, which would have set House members aside from prosecution for many of their illegal and unethical activities.)

 People of Virginia's 6th Congressional have yet another shame to live with today. Rep. Bob Goodlatte, who lives in and represents Roanoke and an area all the way north to Harrisonburg, has introduced a House of Representatives rule to strip his colleagues of ethical oversight.

One of the least ethical institutions in the United States is the House of Representatives and Goodlatte wants to remove any pretense that it has ethics.

According to a report on Yahoo this morning, "Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., offered the surprise amendment to gut the Office of Congressional Ethics. The full Congress will vote on the entire rules package Tuesday, the first day of its new term."

The measure would change the name of the group from Office of Congressional Ethics to Office of Congressional Complaint Review, strip it of its independence, block it from investigating any wrongdoing that occurred prior to 2011, and prevent it from releasing its findings to the public, without the authorization of the House Committee on Ethics, according to the report. The new rule would prevent enforcement of criminal activity "without the approval of the House committee."

This is a step toward the kind of absolute authoritarian government--one where lawmakers are not subject to the law--that many of us fear.  It was shaped in a closed-door Republican meeting  and the rule change "drew intense criticism from Democrats and watchdog organizations, which portrayed the vote as a betrayal of the incoming Republican president’s campaign vow to “drain the swamp.”

Sen. Elizabeth Warren tweeted, "Who, exactly, thinks that the problem with Washington is that we have too many rules requiring the gov to act ethically?" Ethics lawyers for Presidents Barack Obama and George Bush said the rule would be "returning the House to “dark days.” 
 
According to the Huffington Post, "The new ethics group would no longer be able to release information to the public, employ anyone 'for a position involving communications with the public,' or directly contact law enforcement without approval. It would also be prohibited from investigating anonymous complaints.

Republicans are methodically removing themselves from being held responsible for actions detrimental to the American people and it appears to me that this is a drive toward the authoritarian government so many of us have feared with their complete takeover this past election. They are already suggesting internment camps for Muslims and I believe that without some sort of authority governing these rogue legislators, the camps will turn into gulags to hold anybody who opposes them.

Goodlatte has evolved over the past 20-plus years in the House as a water boy for Newt Gingrich and a man without much of a political philosophy, save for the one he was told to have, into a leader of the most extreme Republicans in the House. He has accomplished that by kow-towing to the far right, helping to gerrymander Republican districts--include his--into safe zones for this kind of behavior and jumping on the Trump bandwagon early with proper caution. The moves politically are astute. Morally, they are indefensible and he's now taking care of that portion by building himself a legal safe zone in the House.

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