GOP backpeddles furiously on effort to gut ethics watchdog

U.S. Rep. Bob Goodlatte

In a “secret vote” Monday night, Jan. 2, Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives voted to move the independent Office of Congressional Ethics under oversight of the House Ethics Committee. But after an immediate and widespread outcry against the effort, House Republicans called an emergency conference Tuesday morning, Jan. 3, to withdraw the proposal.

The House established Office of Congressional Ethics in 2008 in response to a series of scandals plaguing numerous GOP lawmakers, including three who went to prison. Changes proposed Monday would mean the OCE would no longer be independent, that lawmakers would vote to determine if a fellow Congressmember had broken the law, that the OCE would not be allowed to receive anonymous tips and that accusations against lawmakers would no longer be made public.

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., had both urged GOP lawmakers to wait before pushing for such changes, and to seek bipartisan support for the effort. But Virginia Republican Bob Goodlatte ignored the warnings from his party leaders and went introduced the proposal anyway.

The vote sparked outrage across the board and even drew a reprimand from Donald Trump who, per his established practice for discussing policy issues, tweeted about it Monday night: “With all that Congress has to work on, do they really have to weakening of the Independent Ethics Watchdog, as unfair as it may be, their number one act and priority. Focus on tax reform, healthcare and so many other things of far greater importance! #DTS”

(DTS stands for “Drain The Swamp,” one of Trump’s many catchphrases during his campaign, one he has since said he initially hated but decided to use because it was obviously popular with his supporters. Since the election, though, instead of draining the swamp of politics in D.C., he’s just been adding gators — and maybe a crocodile or two, and even the Loch Ness monster — to the mix.)

(What I am wondering is, how long will it be until someone unearths some ethics scandal involving Goodlatte or one of his cronies?)

—  Tammye Nash

Richard Grenell, gay former Romney campaign spokesman, visits Dallas

grenell

Richard Grenell

While serving as a spokesman for the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations under President George W. Bush, Richard Grenell attempted to get his partner’s name listed in the U.N.’s “blue book” directory.

Grenell, who’s openly gay, said his request went all the way to then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s top attorney, who stalled for years before denying it and citing the Defense of Marriage Act, which bars the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages.

Under President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the policy was changed in 2010, and same-sex partners can now be listed in the U.N. directory, an official in the office of the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. confirmed this week.

But Grenell, who said he didn’t know whether the policy had been changed, just laughed when asked whether it could convince him to vote for Obama on Nov. 6.

“We have an administration that just lied to us on Libya,” Grenell said. “I fear for every gay person’s safety if we allow this administration to continue their weak national security record.”

The response is hardly surprising from Grenell, a gay Republican who is perhaps best known in the LGBT community for his brief stint earlier this year as a national security spokesman for Mitt Romney’s campaign. Grenell resigned from the position a few weeks after being appointed in a firestorm of controversy over his sexual orientation.

Grenell, who’ll keynote Metroplex Republicans’ Grand Ol’ Party on Saturday, talked about that episode and more in an interview with Dallas Voice this week.

—  John Wright