Blog — Office of Congressional Ethics
Congress was out of session this week, but some members continued to make headlines for all the wrong reasons.
On the ethics front, we found one more example of why Americans hold Congress in such low esteem. Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) appears to have pulled a classic “I’m above the law” stunt all too familiar in Washington. According to a news report, Rep. Gohmert received a citation for parking his SUV in a spot reserved for National Park Service vehicles. He then removed the ticket from his windshield and placed it on a police car along with his business card with a note saying: “Oversight of Park Service is my job! Natural Resources Thus the Congressional Plate in window.” The police report notes Rep. Gohmert was “rude and irate,” and “ranting.” Further, Rep. Gohmert told an officer he “did not have time to deal with the issue,” and said to officers, “I left my business card with the ticket and I am not paying for the ticket.” Accordingly, CREW filed a complaint with the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) against Rep. Gohmert for conduct that reflects discreditably upon the House.
Former presidential candidate and sitting Congresswoman Michele Bachmann (R-MN) appears to be facing increased scrutiny from the OCE for her campaign’s handling of campaign cash. The allegations of impropriety come from none other than her former campaign staffers, and involve “improper transfer of funds and under-the-table payments” by Bachmann’s presidential campaign.
Rep. Don Young (R-AK), a longtime member of CREW’s “Most Corrupt,” made news this week for a rather unsavory remark to a local radio station: “My father had a ranch; we used to have 50-60 wetbacks to pick tomatoes.” Something tells us this kind of comment won’t help the party’s efforts to woo more Hispanics into the party’s fold.
Did you listen to the Supreme Court’s oral arguments on the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA)? We certainly did. CREW filed a friend-of-the-court brief in United States v. Windsor, a lawsuit argued before the Supreme Court Wednesday challenging the constitutionality of the 1996 law. CREW’s brief, co-authored with George Washington University Law School Professor Alan Morrison, points out the perverse effects DOMA has on ethics, tax, and bankruptcy laws by recognizing only opposite-sex marriages. The First and Second Circuit Courts cited CREW’s arguments in striking down DOMA. As an interesting side note, it turns out House Republicans’ defense of DOMA has racked up taxpayer expenses six times as much as they originally anticipated. Money well spent in a time of fiscal austerity?
On Thursday, President Obama signed an executive order creating a bipartisan commission tasked with formulating solutions to, among other things, cutting down on long lines at the voting booth. The results of the commission’s final report will be a welcome means to further the dialogue on how to repair some of our election system’s most systemic flaws.
Finally, if you’re looking for the newspaper opinion of the week as food for thought, check out E.J. Dionne Jr.’s piece from Wednesday in the Washington Post, which ponders the seeming inconsistency in supporting unlimited contributions while being anti-Citizens United. The question posed: “Are opponents of Citizens United and the new super PAC world required to disown those who use their wealth to fight for causes [they] believe in?” Check it out and share your thoughts.
See you next week.
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