This new Republican-run House of Representatives is looking a lot like the old ethics-be-damned House run just a few years ago by the convicted money-launderer, Tom DeLay – only more so.
Back when DeLay was the GOP’s corrupt majority leader, he got caught hustling campaign funds from an energy corporation whose legislation he then helped pass. This flagrant exchange of corporate cash for legislative favors was so stinky that even DeLay’s pals on the ethics committee had to slap his wrist, ruling in 2004 that a Congress critter should not engage in fundraising “that gives even an appearance that donors will receive ... special treatment.”
Now, fast forward to last year, when the independent investigative arm of the House ethics committee charged two Republicans (Tom Price of Georgia and John Campbell of California) and one Democrat (Joe Crowley of New York) with DeLay-style money hustles.
The investigators found compelling proof that these powerful members collected checks from Wall Street lobbyists just before voting the bankers’ way on regulatory reforms. E-mails and other incriminating documents show that Crowley even left the Capitol while the House was debating the reforms so he could attend the fundraiser being thrown for him at the home of a banking lobbyist. He then returned to the floor to vote against the reforms, exactly as his grinning Wall Street donors wanted.
The punishment for these miscreants? None. In one of its first acts this year, the “new” ethics committee merrily dropped all charges against their delighted colleagues. In an Alice-in-Wonderland moment, the committee declared on Jan. 26 that there was no connection between the vote and the cash, adding that no “reasonable” person would see even an appearance of impropriety in the exchange.
Excuse me for being unreasonable, but it appears obvious that what the committee has done is to set an ethical standard for this Congress that’s even lower than the dark days of Tom DeLay. And that’s going some!
Still, it’s nice to know that whenever America faces a big issue, we can always count on Congress to be there.
For themselves, that is.
Take health care. Corporate-funded front groups churned out a mess of lies to foment public opposition to Obama’s rather modest insurance reform, demonizing it as a “government takeover” of our health care system. It was no such thing, but that hasn’t stopped Republican lawmakers from making a theatrical show of trying to repeal Obama’s reform and “save” the people from the horrors of socialized medicine.
Yet, in all their blathering, few of them have offered to save themselves from the horrors of taxpayer-provided health care. Congress critters get Cadillac coverage at our expense, plus they have their own in-house bevy of government doctors to attend to them. Why don’t they vote to eliminate this privileged bastion of socialism?
Then there’s the real horror of gun violence that exploded most recently in Arizona. In response, members of Congress rushed forward with creative solutions. It’s all about public safety, they exclaimed – by which they meant saving themselves from the public.
Rep. Peter King of New York showed what he’s made of by introducing legislation making it a federal crime to carry a gun within the vicinity of – guess who? – a congressperson. Rep. Dan Burton of Indiana proposed a very specific job stimulus program – he wanted Capitol Hill workers to seal off the House gallery with bulletproof glass to shield the skittish solons from the people. And a couple of members took a bold stand for individual responsibility by announcing that they would henceforth show their respect for constituents by packing pistols when going out amongst them.
Good grief, don’t they do enough damage by shooting off their mouths? I don’t know about you, but I don’t think members of Congress should be trusted with real guns. At least not until they show themselves to be able to pass a sanity test.
Jim Hightower is a national radio commentator, columnist and author.