Republicans Heart Ethics Reform?

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.


Setting the rules for his GOP-controlled House, incoming Speaker John Boehner has preserved the Office of Congressional Ethicsthe independent investigative panel that has been criticized for overreaching by members of both parties. Good government groups and other watchdogs had warned that the new GOP majority might try to kill off the OCE, which was created in 2008 as part of the Democrats’ sweeping ethics reforms. Though Boehner and other Republicans opposed the OCE from the start, they were joined more recently by members of the Congressional Black Caucus, who believed their members were unfairly targeted by the independent panel, which can use publiceven anonymouscomplaints to initiate investigations.

But despite the bipartisan opposition to the OCE, Republicans “found it untenable to gut an ethics office while calling for greater accountability in Congress,” writes Politico‘s Jonathan Allen, and the House GOP has preserved the rules governing the panel so far. There’s still a chance that the OCE could end up being undermined during the appropriations processlawmakers will have to approve funding for staffing the panel, and cutting off the OCE’s purse strings would be an easy way to defang the office without eliminating it entirely. But the GOP may have also decided that gutting the office isn’t worth the risk of a public backlash. Also not lost on the GOP is the fact that Democrats have been the main targets of the office’s investigations.

Boehner certainly wants to send the message that the GOP is tough on ethics: one of the new rules bars former legislators who become registered lobbyists from access to the House gym, to clamp down on informal wheeling and dealing. The party has also waged its tea party-backed war on earmarks under the auspices of cracking down on favor-trading and other blights of Beltway culture.

But though the pro-ethics rhetoric has flown freely, real solutions are much more murky, given all of the workarounds that are available: the GOP has welcomed influence-peddling through outside spending groups, incoming freshmen are bringing scores of ex-lobbyists on staff, and earmarks are a miniscule portion of government appropriations and designated spending on pet projects. Meanwhile, even if the OCE is preserved, the House Ethics Committeethe internal body that actually doles out punishmentsis in complete turmoil over the impending trial of Rep. Maxine Water (D-Calif.), and Boehner has yet to indicate whether such investigations with be conducted with the same fervor in the next Congress.

SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

payment methods

SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate