The GOP: The Party of the Ethically Challenged

You know something is really bad wrong when one of your country’s two major parties decides, behind closed doors, to eviscerate the nation’s independent ethics committee on day-one of the new Congress. That’s what House GOP leadership attempted to do last week.

Meeting secretly the night before the new Congress was to begin, House Republicans voted gop-being-silly_getty-images119 to 74 to nullify the authority of the Office of Government Ethics (OGE), an independent body they created back in 2008 to investigate congressional ethics violations. The plan would have placed charges of corruption and ethical misconduct under the House Ethics Committee which is controlled by Republicans. Rules they planned to implement would have disallowed any findings be made public and that referrals to law enforcement couldn’t be made without their approval.

That was the clandestine plan of the House GOP last Monday, on the eve of Congress being gaveled into session. But fortunately, among all those ethically challenged GOP members there was at least one member who realized this was wrong and notified the media.

Once the word got out and the media–both social and news–got wind of the plan and relayed it to the American public, the response was overwhelming from all sides of the political spectrum.

Representative Walter Jones (R-NC) told Bloomberg News the next day, “We have got just a tremendous number of calls to our office here and district offices concerned about this.”

As the result of the outcry against such a move, the House GOP was forced to back-peddle on the idea. At least for now.

A number of the media outlets gave credit for this turnabout to president-elect Donald Trump and his tweets on the matter. But they were wrong. Trump didn’t have a problem with the idea per se, just the timing of it. The timing wasn’t good, he said. And Trump is a master of timing.

Writing in Mother Jones, Kevin Drum predicted that “they’ll ‘study changes’ and then gut the office in August, when everyone is on vacation.”

There is good reason for the GOP to be concerned about ethics and ethics violations. Their in-coming leader, president-elect Donald Trump, is ethically challenged. The man doesn’t have an ethical bone in his body, which should be obvious to anyone who has seen and heard him speak or tweet over the past year. He has huge ethical issues. And these issues are going to be addressed.

As a matter of fact, those ethical concerns have already been raised by the office that the House GOP tried to muzzle last week. Writing to Senate leaders the other day, the director of the OGE, Walter Shaub, expressed their concern over the cabinet hearings that are due to take place this week.

“During the presidential transition” writes , not all of the nominees presently scheduled for hearings have completed the ethics review process. In fact, OGE has not received even initial draft financial disclosure reports for some of the nominees scheduled for hearings.”

This, like most of what Donald Trump has done in his run for president, is unprecedented writes Shaub. Up until this week such financial disclosures have been required by the Ethics in Government Act, which was passed after the Watergate scandal.

“In the past,” writes Shaub, “the ethics work was fully completed prior to the announcement of nominees in the overwhelming majority of cases.”

Despite this, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, says the confirmation hearing will proceed as scheduled this week. It should be noted that if every unethical bone were to be removed from Senator McConnell’s body, he would bear a striking resemblance to a large jelly fish.

Norm Ornstein, writing in The Atlantic, observes that “the core of America’s political system depends on real checks and balances, on a Congress that puts country ahead of party. The House leadership (has shown by its actions) that party comes first.”

Ethics shouldn’t be a partisan issue, it shouldn’t be a part of GOP ideology. Those of us who believe a strong democracy depends on our ethical values, need to do what we did last week and pressure our legislative leaders to do the right thing and require all the president-elect’s nominees to complete the required paperwork before they are voted on by Congress.

Who would have thought that we as American citizens would have to force our elected leaders to do the ethical thing, but unfortunately, we now live in such a time.

Related articles: Ready or not, Republicans say Cabinet hearings will begin Tuesday.

APNewsBreak: Several Trump picks’ ethics reviews incomplete.

The GOP ethics disaster.

The lesson to be learned from the GOP’s ethics fiasco.

Photo: GOP leadership having a good laugh, probably at the expense of America’s voters.

Photo credit: Getty Images

It’s a New Year, But the NC GOP is Up to Its Same Old Tricks

As the old year drew to a close and new one was about to begin, North Carolina Republicans, filed an “emergency motion” with the U.S. Supreme Court asking that special elections slated for the state in 2017 be declared null and void.

The special elections were ordered for the state after a federal court determined last year that over a quarter of its districts had been redrawn illegally, claiming that they were Ethics“racially gerrymandered.” The deadline for redrawing the districts is March 15 of this year with special elections to follow later in the year.

Attorneys for North Carolina’s GOP in submitting the petition called the court’s claims “erroneous,” “highly debatable” and “so obviously wrong.”

Rick Hasen, a law professor at the University of California-Irvine, posting on the Election Law Blog, commented that the object of the petition is fairly obvious. “The goal here,” he writes, “is to preserve as much Republican power in the state as possible despite the election of a Democratic governor, attorney general and a new majority in the State Supreme Court.”

Currently, as the result of their gerrymandering tactics, North Carolina Republicans have a veto-proof super majority and they would like to keep it that way. If voters have another opportunity to vote with re-drawn districts that more fairly represent the state, the GOP could lose that.

Michael Gerhardt, a law professor at UNC, says the petition is about politics. “It fits into the pattern of the legislative leadership and outgoing governor (Pat McCrory) trying to box Cooper in.”

Along those same lines, before lame-duck governor McCrory left office last week he signed into law a number of bills taking away the newly-elected governor’s powers. Among those was a law designed to take away his authority in making appointments to the state elections board. The incoming governor, Roy Cooper, responded with a lawsuit regarding the elections board law labeling it unconstitutional. A Wake County Superior Court judge has put a temporary hold on that law until the court can review it further later this week.

Cooper’s legal team says more lawsuits against the state’s GOP leadership will follow.

Regarding the NC GOP’s special petition, Rick Hasen says it “seems unlikely to succeed.”

Let’s hope so.

Also read: GOP legislative leaders ask US Supreme Court to halt 2017 elections.

North Carolina Republicans appear to make one last attempt to stick it to incoming Democratic governor.

North Carolina Republicans sue to preserve racial gerrymandering.

North Carolina GOP: “Curses, Foiled Again!”

Two weeks ago in a special surprise session of the North Carolina General Assembly, Republicans passed several laws aimed at stripping governor-elect Roy Cooper of his power to govern the state. The laws were quickly signed by outgoing governor Pat McCrory. Roy Cooper is a Democrat. North Carolina’s Republicans don’t believe Democrats snidely-whiplashshould have the same powers as they do, thus the making and the signing of the new laws.

When the laws were passed, Cooper said he had every intention of suing the state legislature. On Friday, December 30, Cooper made good on that promises, stating that a law ending the control governors have over statewide and county election boards was unconstitutional because it gives legislators too much control over how election laws are administered.

Currently, the board of elections has three members, with a majority from the governor’s party. The new law would undercut the governor’s authority by having it made up of four members, two from each party.

On Friday, Wake County Superior Court Judge Don Stephens ruled in Cooper’s favor, temporarily blocking the law that was due to go into effect on January 1, to coincide with Cooper being sworn in as North Carolina’s governor. Stating that the law was a risk to free and fair elections, Stephens said he would review the proposed law in more detail next week.

No doubt, Republicans will be irate.

Curses, foiled again!

In addition to Cooper’s lawsuit against the state legislature, this past Wednesday the Republican-controlled state board of education said it would be suing the state legislature as well. In this lawsuit Republicans will be suing members of their own party.

The board of education is suing because one of the new special session surprise laws transfers many of its powers over to the state’s newly elected Republican state superintendent of public instruction. That lawsuit, like the one filed by Cooper, claims that this new law is also unconstitutional.

See also: The latest, NC: Law stripping gov.-elect’s power blocked.

North Carolina court temporarily blocks laws stripping governor’s power.

North Carolina judge temporarily blocks law that strips incoming Democratic governor’s power.

Illustration: Snidely Whiplash from Rocky and Bullwinkle Wiki.

 

 

Dear North Carolina,We Have a Major Problem

Dear North Carolina,

We have a major problem on our hands. It’s HUGE. Like me, you’ve probably seen the red flags going up for several years now indicating that our democracy was under siege. We suspected it. But you and I didn’t do anything about it. Maybe it was denial. We just didn’tnc-general-assembly-protest want to believe that here in America that something like this could happen. I mean, stuff like we’ve read about here in North Carolina is the kind of stuff that goes on in banana republics but not in America, and certainly not here in good ole North Carolina.

Well, last week our suspicions were confirmed. You and I can’t deny it any longer. It’s true. It’s sad, it’s disheartening, but, alas, it’s true. Here in North Carolina we no longer have a functioning democracy. Here in North Carolina the majority no longer rules. Last week Andrew Reynolds, a professor of political science at UNC at Chapel Hill, dropped the mic. He’s no kook. He’s no fringe-lefty with an agenda, no ultra liberal with an axe to grind. In 2005 he co-designed a comprehensive method of evaluating the quality of elections around the world. This method was incorporated into the Electoral Integrity Project. Basically, as the name would imply, it gauges the integrity of the electoral process. Since 2012 it has been found to be the most accurate method of evaluating how free and fair democratic elections are.

This year Professor Reynolds and his colleagues used this method to determine how North Carolina stacks up against other states and even other countries. And guess what? The results weren’t good.

With 100 being a perfect score, we scored a 58. Like we said, not good. Back when we were going to school if we got a 58 on our report card we were pretty much guaranteed to get a butt whipping when we got home. Getting a score of 58 on our democratic process here in North Carolina means we only beat out Cuba by two points. Yes, that Cuba. And I think you know what kind of democracy they have down there. None. Zero. It’s a dictatorship. This score puts us in the same company with Indonesia, Iran and Venezuela. Oh, and speaking of Venezuela, I saw in the headlines today that it is “lurching closer and closer to chaos.”

Now, as you can imagine, 58 is a pretty pathetic showing. But get this. On the integrity of the voting district boundaries here, we scored a 7 out of a possible 100. No, that’s not a typo. It’s a 7. Not only is that the worst here in the U.S. of A., according to E.I.P., that’s the worst in the whole wide world.

I think maybe “integrity” is a key word in all of this. It seems that our elected officials in Raleigh don’t have any. If you don’t have integrity, then you are likely to gerrymander districts so bad that the federal courts will deem them to be unconstitutional and order special elections. If you don’t have integrity, you will devise ways to suppress the vote, when you should be devising ways to make it easier. When you lack integrity, you will make and pass laws that will strip an incoming Democratic governor of his powers because you are a Republican and you don’t like Democrats. If you are an elected official, no matter your party affiliation, if you place your wishes and desires above the people who elected you, and you will cheat and lie to maintain your power, you have no integrity.

Slowly but surely over the last several year our state’s GOP leadership have brazenly used their positions in government to amass more and more power for themselves. They don’t care about the people of North Carolina, they only care about themselves. As I said, they have no integrity. And they don’t care that they don’t have integrity. Countries without democracies have leaders like that, they have no use for integrity.

Professor Reynolds said in his piece in the News and Observer last week that the state’s Republican Party leaders have, since 2010, “systematically engaged in a dangerous partisan political agenda, making it harder for people to vote…. That’s not what democracy looks like–and North Carolina deserves better.”

We do, indeed, deserve better. So, if you thought this was all going to get better on its own, think again. I don’t mean to rain on your parade but come January 20th it’s only going to get worse. What we see going on now in North Carolina is also going to become a national problem because the person who is going to be our next president, like our state’s politicians, has no integrity.If you haven’t seen that yet, you will.

The only way this is going to improve is if you and I become more politically involved. I know that’s a pain, but the alternative is going to be a lot more painful. Hunker down, get serious, separate the fake news from the real news, educate yourself on what’s happening here and in Washington and get involved.

If we don’t, then we’re doomed.

Photo: Community educator Manju Rajendran shouts as she is arrested in the Senate gallery during the North Carolina General Assembly session on December 16, in Raleigh.
Photo credit: Ethan Hyman/The News & Observer via AP

See also: North Carolina is no longer classified as a democracy.

North Carolina’s democracy ranked on par with Cuba.

The North Carolina GOP’s power grab represents the end of democracy.

 

 

As It Turns Out, North Carolina’s GOP Leadership Not Only Dislikes Democrats, They Don’t Care Much For Democracy Either

Just for the record, North Carolina is not a banana republic. But, hey, we’re working on it. Rome wasn’t built in a day and tearing down the Tar Heel State’s democratic government north-carolina_set-the-clock-backcan’t be wrought in just a few years.

Here in North Carolina we took a huge leap toward becoming a banana republic this week when the GOP-controlled leadership voted to pass a number of bills designed to undercut the authority of in-coming Democratic governor Roy Cooper during a “special session” of the state’s General Assembly.  Although billed as a special session to address disaster relief for North Carolina’s hurricane victims, its primary purpose was for creating a disaster of another kind for the state’s citizens who had elected Cooper as their governor. Several years ago our state’s GOP traded in their “job creators” mantra for “chaos creators.” And there is no doubt they are much better at the latter than they are at the former.

Not all conservatives were on board with the power grab. Mike Kokai of the Art Pope-funded John Locke Foundation said of the power-mad GOP “(It) causes lots of problems for anyone who wants to see good government…to see this being done as it’s being done, has to raise some red flags.”

But here in North Carolina this sort of monkey business is so common that it has become the “new normal” and far too many of the state’s citizens are prone to accept it as such. Red flags? What red flags?

Senator Harry Brown (R-Onslow) told the news media that this move by his party was totally justified, citing the 1976 “Christmas Massacre” (yes, 1976) in which newly-elected Democratic governor Jim Hunt fired a bunch of Republicans because they were, well, Republicans. Says the sanctimonious senator, “Everybody knows the history and we’ll just leave it at that.”

Fortunately, there are those in the state who don’t intend on leaving it at that. Most notably Rev. William Barber and the NC NAACP will continue to bring attention to these kinds of shenanigans in the state capital as well as bringing lawsuits. Undoubtedly, as the result of this past week’s actions by the GOP, resistance will only grow.

The news media should also be involved in labeling these kinds of actions for what they are. For example, WRAL came out strongly against the unprecedented move this week stating in an editorial: “Amid the sorry spectacle, we see a fundamental question North Carolina must ask: What kind of person puts partisan politics above the orderly functioning of state government?….This special session is giving us a clear answer to that question–every GOP legislator who votes for these ‘get even’ bills is guilty of that sorry charge.”

Of course in-coming governor Roy Cooper has no intention of letting something like this go unchallenged. “This has got to stop,” he said in response to the partisan politics on display this past week. “I will use every tool in the governor’s office, to fight for everyday North Carolinians, including the courts if necessary. If I believe that laws passed by the legislature hurt working families and are unconstitutional, they will see me in court.”

What happened this past week in Raleigh doesn’t just affect the governor’s ability to govern. It affects all of us who call North Carolina home. We should all be involved in letting the GOP leadership know that we will not give up our democracy without a fight.

On Friday, President Obama speaking at a news conference in Washington, perhaps his last as president, warned of the dangers of partisan politics. North Carolina’s politicians would be wise to heed that warning.

(photo credit: Jerry Wolford/News & Record/AP)

See also: North Carolina Republicans Legislative Coup Is An Attack on Democracy

North Carolina ‘Legislative Coup’ Is Over, And Republicans Won

North Carolina Republicans Launch a Legislative ‘Coup’

General Assembly Republicans Aim to Rig the System for Control

 

 

 

 

Postal Reform: Letter Carriers Prepare to Hit the Ground Running in 2017

NALC Legislative Update

Although the 114th Congress was not able to take up postal reform before the end of the year, the NALC Legislative and Political Affairs Department is preparing to hit the ground running when lawmakers return to Washington, DC, on Jan. 3 to begin the 115th Congress.

Where we left off
Throughout 2016, NALC worked with a broad coalition, which included the Postal Service, postal-service-logothe mailing industry and other postal unions, to educate lawmakers on the priorities we agreed on. The only official postal reform bills introduced in the 114th Congress included the Postal Service Reform Act of 2016 (H.R. 5714), the Postal Service Financial Improvement Act of 2016 (H.R. 5707), and the Improving Postal Operations, Service and Transparency (iPost) Act of 2015 (S. 2051). H.R. 5707 was expected to become part of the House’s final reform package. To compare the differences between both H.R. 5714 and S. 2051, click here.

H.R. 5714 was put together by leaders of the House Oversight and Government Affairs Committee (OGR), including Reps. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), Elijah Cummings (D-MD), Mark Meadows (R-NC), Gerry Connolly (D-VA) and Stephen Lynch (D-MA). In July, it was marked up and approved by the full committee. Most recently, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) unveiled a cost-estimate for the measure stating that the proposal would increase federal spending by $0.2 billion. The bill was awaiting floor action, but a late score and busy House calendar prevented further movement.

S. 2051, which was introduced by Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE) was never taken up by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee (HSGAC).

Up until the end of the 114th Congress, leaders of both the House and Senate committees worked behind the scenes to address differences in their bills in the event there was time for them to move in either chamber. NALC appreciates the work of the leaders on the OGR Committee and is committed to working with them again in the 115th.

Looking to the 115th
There’s still work to be done, though. One of the most important things letter carriers can do is to put a human face on the work that we do. Postal reform came close to being considered before the full House this year, which means it’s important that we build on, and strengthen, our relationships with our members of Congress. To get started, get in touch with your district’s letter carrier congressional liaison to learn more about your state’s congressional delegation and where your representatives in Congress stand on our issues.

Rep. Virginia Foxx’s Plan For Organized Labor: Hell On Earth

With Donald Trump due to become president next month, what does that mean for America’s workers, blue collar workers, America’s middle class? During his campaign Trump said he would do for the middle class what previous administrations had neglected to do: to ensure that wages and benefits improved and to see to it that those who were unemployed would  find gainful employment. A lot of working people, tired of struggling to keep a roof over their heads, voted for him based on his promises to help them have a better quality of life. Now that he’s been elected and will take office in January, will those virginia-foxx_dailykos-compromises become a reality for the working class over the next four years?

Based on his past performance before his election, his selection of potential cabinet members, and the fact that both the House and Senate are controlled by the Republican Party, the answer is: not likely.

Not only will those promises made on the campaign trail regarding the working class of America not become reality, but the plight of the American worker–the middle class–will become increasingly more dire.

Take for example the position of the incoming chairman of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, North Carolina’s own Virginia Foxx. Back in September Ms. Foxx was hopeful she would become that committee’s chairperson. In an interview with Politico she admitted she had big plans for the future of education and labor should she become the committee’s chairperson. Big plans indeed.

After stating that a Donald Trump administration would be “akin to heaven on Earth” compared with the Obama administration’s labor policies, she articulated plans that would help make this “heaven on Earth” scenario a reality. A reality for big business. A reality for big banks. A reality for America’s one percent. A reality, in general, for the 21st century’s robber barons.

However, for the working class, her plans and the Trump administration’s plans will be more akin to hell on Earth.

In an interview with Reuters a couple of days ago when it was announced that Ms. Foxx would become that committee’s chairman next month, Ms. Foxx opined that organized labor has “sort of lost its reason for being,” stating that it is no longer necessary because of the many laws that have been enacted to protect workers.

However, even if that statement were true–which it isn’t–Ms. Foxx’s plans regarding workers in the new administration would make organized labor extremely relevant because she plans over the next four years to dismantle every conceivable law that has ever been passed to benefit and protect workers.

Among the many items on her To Do List are the following:

  • To repeal a wide range of Obama’s regulations that benefit workers and “to do whatever we can to stop the rules coming out of the Labor Department–either block them or repeal them.”
  • Will work to repeal the National Labor Relations Board’s rule that is designed to speed up union elections.
  • Hold hearings to reexamine the National Labor Relations Act.
  • Eliminate a rule that would extend mandatory overtime pay to more than four million workers.
  • Repeal the National Labor Relations Board’s revised standard for “joint employment” making it easier for unions and regulators to hold companies accountable for the employment practices of staffing agencies, contractors and franchises with which they partner.

Of course, Ms. Foxx is aware that the Democratic Party will take issue with these and other plans to bolster companies bottom lines at the expense of the worker. Her response?

“I think that they (Democrats) will bring up their tired arguments about how we are destroying the world by doing the things that we’re doing, but frankly I think this last election shows that the American people aren’t buying those arguments anymore.”

However, we would argue that the “American people” weren’t aware that the destruction of labor and the middle class was what they were actually voting for. We’ll see what their response is when these plans become more apparent.

(photo credit: dailykos.com)

Read: New House labor committee chair questions need for unions.

Virginia Foxx makes play for House education and labor committee chairmanship.