“Quis custodiet ipsos custodies?” (“Who will guard the guards themselves?”) Juvenal.
It was a holiday, the first one of the year, and who knew these guys would be at work, or even in town? But there they were in a presumably smokeless room deep in the caverns of the Capitol building in Washington, D.C. filleting the Congressional Ethics Office, the independent agency set up to, well, monitor Congressional ethics.
By a vote of 119-74, with House Speaker Paul Ryan and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy in opposition, House Republicans approved Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte’s proposal to replace the ethics office with the “Office of Congressional Complaint Review,” which will answer to the House Ethics Committee.
If you find all that confusing, said Goodlatte, don’t worry. “The amendment builds upon and strengthens the existing Office of Congressional Ethics by maintaining its primary area of focus of accepting and reviewing complaints from the public and referring them, if appropriate, to the Committee on Ethics.”
Never mind that the Committee on Ethics is controlled by the members – that is to say, by the people the original office was set up to investigate.
It seems ominous that, with all the issues we face, the first act of the new Congressional majority is to gut its own ethical guidelines. But the more important issue is how they twist the language to sow confusion rather than clarity.
”Political language,” wrote George Orwell many years ago, “is designed to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.”