Saturday, January 14, 2017

Bold And Perilous

As chairperson of the House Ethics Committee, Jason Chaffetz is an unparalleled expert on ethics, exquisitely able to avoid them himself, a man of whom Charlie Pierce this past week wrote 

If there is a more purely mendacious figure in our politics these days than Congressman Jason Chaffetz of Utah, I don't particularly want to meet that person without a team of lawyers and perhaps a cream pie. First, he promised to investigate a prospective President Hillary Clinton from hell to breakfast. Then, confronted with the fact that the president-elect has built a career on various grifts and scams and that he has no intention to stop now, Chaffetz urged prudence and caution in his oversight job.

Nonetheless, Walter Shaub Jr., director of the US Office of Government Ethics, on Wednesday

gave a speech at the Brookings Institution. Shaub — a political appointee of President Obama in his fourth of a five-year term and a career civil servant — described Trump's announced plans to turn over management of his businesses to his sons as "meaningless" as it relates to conflicts of interest.

The following day, the Utah Republican responded by sending, in the words of The New York Times,  "a stinging letter to Mr. Shaub raising the possibility of a congressional investigation." 

But Shaub's thoughtful and balanced- he commended the responses of a few Trump Cabinet nominees to ethical concerns- speech may not be what most rankles the President-elect's inner circle because

Over the weekend, Senate Democrats released a letter Shaub sent raising alarms about nominees who hadn't complted their ethics reviews being scheduled for confirmation heaings.

The ethics agency director ended the letter, "For as long as I remain Director, OGE's staff and agency ethics officials will not succumb to pressure to cut corners and ignore conflicts of interest."

The last thing this Administration will tolerate is someone who "will not succumb to pressure to cut corners and ignore conflicts of interest." Distilled, that would be someone who will not "succumb pressure to cut corners"- or to Trump, someone who "will not succumb." Schaub's term does not end for a year but his office, subject to budgetary approval, may be imperiled because the GOP-dominated Congress the very first week of January

reinstated a procedural rule created in 1876 that allows lawmakers to cut the pay of individual federal workers down to $1, The Washington Post reported Thursday.

The Holman Rule allows members of Congress to propose amendments to appropriations bills that target specific government employees or programs in an effort to cut spending.

Under the rule passed this week in larger rules package, any such amendment that would target an employee or program would have to be passed by a majority of the House and Senate. That makes it unlikely, albeit possible, for lawmakers to reduce a federal worker’s pay. 

A professor of public service at New York University described here as having "worked on Capitol Hll as an adviser on transitions" argues of Schaub's speech"I don’t think it was particularly wise to do. It is a moment fraught with a great deal of controversy and partisan criticism, and I think it is best if you are in an investigatory organization to hold your fire, do your job and do the best you can. It’s just not the time for it.”

Admittedly, it wasn't a wise career move. However, he and others such as Representative John Lewis may have had in mind Edmund Burke's admonition " All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men/women do nothing." Or perhaps they remember the words of Lutheran minister Martin Niemoller, culled from lectures in the years following World War II:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out— 
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out— 
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

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