Our own representative on Capitol Hill, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA 6th), brought shame to himself, his state, district, and his Party on the ceremonial opening day of Congress, January 3.
On a day that the elected representatives on both sides of the aisle celebrated the opening of the 115th Congress, Goodlatte and a tribe of rank-and-file Republican lawmakers, many of whom were under investigation for possible violations of congressional ethics laws, were preparing to make their first order of business the dismantling of the independent oversight Office of Congressional Ethics. The OCE was created in 2008 to put an end to excessive gift-giving and receiving between lobbyists and House members, most prominently illustrated by the Jack Abramoff scandal. In the intervening eight years it has been criticized by both Republican and Democratic legislators, indicating that “hands in the cookie jar” may be an across-the-aisle Congressional issue.
Goodlatte’s secretive move – Republican leadership had assured Congressional watchdogs the OCE’s charter would be renewed this session – was made Monday. But by Tuesday amidst a growing public backlash it was dealt a death blow by none other than President-elect Donald Trump. Trump Tweeted his displeasure with Goodlatte and his associates, suggesting they should focus on “other more important things” than what was perceived as a transparent attempt to remove objective scrutiny of their behavior. The House Republican Caucus immediately backpedaled in the face of Trump’s objection and the growing public outcry.
“We were elected on a promise to ‘drain the swamp’, and starting the session by relaxing ethics rules is a very bad start,” GOP Representative Tom McClintock of California was quoted as saying of the Goodlatte-sponsored move against the OCE.
The GOP’s new era in Washington has gotten off to a rocky start; and our doughty Sixth District Representative in Congress will have to wait for a more propitious moment to do his mischief.
Goodlatte recently drew some local criticism by failing to reply to a request to officially endorse ITFederal, the company he was credited with bringing to Front Royal as an “economic development opportunity”. The request was made by EDA Executive Director Jennifer McDonald after Councilwoman Bébhinn Egger raised questions about ITFederal’s business model and financing.
(Malcolm Barr Sr. was press secretary in the office of U.S. Sen. Hiram L. Fong (R-Hawaii). Now retired, he is a former Associated Press correspondent in the mid-Pacific and Washington, D.C.).