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House Republicans To Gut Ethics Watchdog

January 3, 2017

By MattvFuller : huffpost – excerpt (includes video)

 Drain the … womp womp!

“As one of their first actions in the new Congress, House Republicans are planning to significantly change the Office of Congressional Ethics, removing the entity’s independence, barring it from investigating anonymous complaints and even changing the group’s name.”

Less than 24 hours before the House convenes and votes on its rules for the 115th Congress, Republicans adopted an amendment Monday night, 119 to 74, from Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) that would fundamentally change the OCE. The independent ethics board investigates complaints against members and issues reports to the Ethics Committee.

Specifically, the amendment would place the OCE under the “oversight” of the lenient Ethics Committee and rename it the Office of Congressional Complaint Review. The new 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.

Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said the change would “functionally destroy” the office.

“Republicans claim they want to ‘drain the swamp,’ but the night before the new Congress gets sworn in, the House GOP has eliminated the only independent ethics oversight of their actions,” Pelosi said. “Evidently, ethics are the first casualty of the new Republican Congress.”

Republicans themselves defended the changes as necessary adjustments to protect members from political witch hunts.

Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) released a statement saying the OCE will still “operate independently.” It will continue to take complaints from the public, investigate them and decide whether to refer them to the House Ethics Committee…

The rules Republicans are adopting require legislation to be posted for three days so that members and the public have a chance to read the measures and voice their input…(more)

It looks like the SFMTA is taking a play out of the Republican playbook, ignoring the rules regarding public review and discourse on legislation. Let’s see if our City Authorities let thme get away with it. Today is the day to write your letters if you haven’t already done so, requesting a 30 day delay on approval of the Geary BRT EIR.
Wednesday and Thursday are the meetings. Calendar info:


48 hours into 2017, House Republicans vote to fill the swamp

Less than 48 hours into 2017, House Republicans made their first serious misstep, handing Democrats an easy issue and highlighting President-elect Donald Trump’s greatest vulnerability…

Defying the wishes of their top leaders, House Republicans voted behind closed doors Monday night to rein the independent ethics office created eight years ago in the wake of a series of embarrassing congressional scandals…

“The Republican effort to bring it under the control of the House Ethics Committee will destroy that independence and effectiveness,” Eisen predicted. “Moreover, the way this is being launched, with a sneak attack on a [holiday] night, contrary to the speaker’s promises of advance notice and transparency in legislating, is outrageous. If this is what one party rule looks like in the era of Trump, I do not believe the American people will stand for it for very long.” Although Ryan opposed the measure, this raises serious questions about whether he is going to lead or follow the poor judgment of his members

Talk about breaking news, this is it. As I am writing the news came through that better minds prevailed.
UPDATE: Republicans have now backed down, dumping the proposed gutting of the ethics office. The move comes after Trump essentially threw them under the bus, tweeting that now was not a good time to see the “weakening” of the office — a characterization entirely at odds with the Republicans’ spin. This early debacle should be a warning to Republicans on several fronts. First, Trump won’t back them up when the incoming fire starts. Second, they are tone deaf, leading to group think in which they convince one another that something patently absurd is perfectly reasonable. Third, when the leaders try to sell “repeal and dawdle” to members, the latter should remember the incident and Trump’s willingness to let them twist in the wind…(more)
Will our Supervisors govern under the rule of law and listen to reasons as well? We will find out on Thursday at the County Transportation Authority Special meeting when the SFMTA tries to push their Geary BRT Hybrid plan ahead of the CEQA review period.  Write your letters and come to the SFMTC meeting if you can. Details here:
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