Thursday, May 28, 2015

Ideology Over Ethics

Remember the government shutdown of 2013? Ted Cruz and his fellow Tea Party types obstructed the appropriation of funds to run the government for the fiscal year 2014. They were all bunched up about the Affordable Care Act, and used it as their excuse to put some 800,000 federal employees out of work and leave a million others wondering when they’d ever see a paycheck. They also used it as an opportunity to puff up their manly chests.

This is why I tell you that elections have consequences. When we elect people who say they hate gummint to BE the gummint, then this is what we get. A bunch of aging adolescents more interested in chestal puffery than doing the serious work of governing.

One of the consequences of the shutdown came at the Federal Elections Commission (FEC). What is the FEC?

From the website: In 1975, Congress created the Federal Election Commission (FEC) to administer and enforce the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA) - the statute that governs the financing of federal elections. The duties of the FEC, which is an independent regulatory agency, are to disclose campaign finance information, to enforce the provisions of the law such as the limits and prohibitions on contributions, and to oversee the public funding of Presidential elections.

The FEC came about as a direct result of Watergate. The FEC publicly discloses where the campaign money comes from and where it goes.

Because of the government shutdown, all 339 FEC agency employees were furloughed. Months earlier, an independent auditor warned that the FEC’s information systems were at high risk for infiltration. And infiltrated they were. Chinese hackers launched an attack shortly after the shutdown. They crashed all of the computer systems – the computers that had all that information about where the money comes from and where it goes. There was nothing to prevent this from happening. No one was on duty, thanks to the folks who brought us the shutdown.

The FEC has been systematically defunded. The agency’s funding has been flat for five years. They have fewer staff now than in the last 15 years – despite the explosion in political spending. The analysts who read disclosure reports to check for compliance have a near quarter of a million page backlog. There are over 250 unresolved enforcement cases.

That’s why it took so long for the FEC to determine that Frank Guinta had broken campaign finance laws with his magic bank account and five years of ever changing lies. That’s why Frank Guinta was elected twice, in the face of those lies. We watched him stand in front of television cameras and accuse Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter of being a liar. There is no accountability or penalty for that kind of blatant dishonesty, far from it. The O’Brien rump caucus has lined up in support of Guinta. They never cared for him before, but now they figure if gummint says Frank is bad than Frank is good. We saw it in the responses to the Teletalk question “Should Frank Guinta Resign?” A number of people said no, because HILLARY. Ideology over ethics. Ideology over intellect.

Regulatory failures happen over and over. The environmental agencies that are supposed to look out for us have been pillaged and underfunded. The Upper Big Branch Coal Mine in Kentucky exploded and caused the death of 29 miners. This was after over a decade of safety violations that should have closed the mine down. The Deepwater Horizon offshore oil drilling platform exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, killing 11 workers and spewing oil into the ocean for 87 days. The Deepwater Horizon had a spotty inspection record. None of the safety mechanisms in place to prevent the explosion or the oil spill worked.

This is what happens when we take away the funding and the fangs of the regulatory agencies. Corporations do not police themselves. They will do anything to avoid paying for their mistakes, especially those that require a huge cleanup. Their interest is in making money, and the occasional environmental disaster shouldn’t be allowed to interfere with that pursuit.

Very few politicians regulate themselves.  With the influx of money generated by the Citizens United decision (because free speech is mighty expensive) involved in the political process, we should all be concerned about the intentional (for what else can it be?) dismantling of the FEC.

It’s easy to dismiss the concerns about money as a federal elections issue. Trickle down economics has been an abysmal failure, but trickle down campaign money is proving quite successful. As we all know, the NH House is populated with 400 “volunteer” legislators. They earn a stipend of $100 a year and mileage reimbursement for their service. It used to be that a run for the NH House meant raising somewhere between $500 and $1000. Candidates needed signs and handouts for voters. Those days are over, as we learned during a recent special election for the NH House, in Rockingham District 32.

The special election was needed because the guy who was elected went to work for Frank Guinta (KARMA!) before he was ever sworn in. Former State Rep. Maureen Mann was uncontested in the Democratic primary. The GOP primary came down to two college students. One was arrested for violating a protective order shortly before the election. The other candidate, Yvonne Dean-Bailey, won the primary. Miss Dean-Bailey is a student at Mt. Holyoke College in Massachusetts. She’s one of the angry young libertea Republicans given special attention because she puts the rare female face on that brand of ideology.

Miss Dean-Bailey’s campaign for the NH House was amazingly well funded. She was the beneficiary of over $10,000 in PAC money alone. A young libertarian millionaire from Texas has a PAC that provided over $4,000 for mailings. He has no ties to NH. He is, however, more than willing to help buy a fellow ideologue a seat in a volunteer legislature.

Special interests expect a return on their investment. We should be concerned about that on every single level of our government. We need regulatory agencies to police those who lack integrity, but have plenty of cash. Pay to play is not democracy.

If there was one decision I would overrule, it would be Citizens United. I think the notion that we have all the democracy that money can buy strays so far from what our democracy is supposed to be. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

This was published as an op-ed in the May 29, 2015 edition of the Conway Daily Sun newspaper.  

1 comment:

Steve K said...

Their ethics boil down to one position, signing an anti-tax pledge for the wealthy and corporations only, every working family, every senior must bear the burden for this.