Transparency, My Ass

Congress returns to Washington on Tuesday. One of the first business items: voting on proposed rules for the session — including folding the House's independent ethics office into a Republican-led committe

Quietly, in the dead of night, and out of the glare of public scrutiny, House GOP members voted to make significant changes to the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE). (Note: they have since rescinded their move after a backlash not only from the public, but also from their own speaker of the house and president-elect.)

Now, rules changes aren’t abnormal acts for a party that controls a house of congress. But a change to a group that oversees and investigates ethics violations of the people making the changes is unusual.

Depending on who you ask (or which article you read today), the OCE is either a good or bad thing, and I’ll leave you to do some searching and reading on your own. But one thing is perfectly clear: the GOP doesn’t understand what “transparency” means, especially when it comes to wielding power.

Given this move and a move before Christmas to declare the broadcast of video on personal devices from the floor of the chambers against the rules, it’s obvious that this is all a rush to shut down dissent, allow congressional business to be conducted in the dark shadows away from public scrutiny, and to wrest even more control of political proceedings from the congressional minority.

But worse yet is how this looks to those outside of the beltway who were tired of business as usual and voted for change. Following a political campaign season that almost myopically focused on transparency, corruption, ending the status quo, pay-for-play, and “draining the swamp,” it’s remarkable how tone-deaf these moves all appear. The GOP comes off as a group rushing headlong toward embracing their power with an almost totalitarian control. And yet, they argue these moves are meant to ensure more transparency, which is a nonsensical argument, even if true (which doesn’t seem likely).

This all is sadly resembling the power grab of the victorious Democrats in 2009, as they set out to make full use of their congressional and White House control. And all that did was backfire in the mid-term elections and lead to six years of political stalemate.