Government officials, or officeholders, who use power and influence related to their official duties for illegitimate private gain or to influence policies favorable to their campaign donors are guilty of political corruption. As a nation bound to the rule of law, it is crucial for the government to ferret out corrupt officials and officeholders to investigate, prosecute, and remove them from their position of power regardless they are sitting Congressional representatives, Supreme Court Justices, or appointed officials. It is likely there has always been a culture of corruption in Washington, but it became the modus operandi of the conservative movement since the election of Barack Obama as President and finally there are legitimate calls for investigations to expose what a normal person would regard as criminal activity. If lying were a prosecutable offense, most Republicans would be sitting in prison where they belong, but there are enough other offenses that if diligently pursued and prosecuted would take down powerful conservatives using their positions to undermine the government, enrich their donors, and for personal gain.
Accusing government officials of corruption is a serious matter, but when there is undeniable proof they are guilty of malfeasance it falls on agencies to investigate improprieties. Unfortunately, many of the people tasked with investigating corruption are unlikely to delve into their own malfeasance and it is certainly the case with House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa. It is too bad the House lacks a mechanism similar to the State Department’s Office of Inspector General that is not afraid to investigate its own Department, and last week it was revealed that is precisely what the IG is doing to uncover corruption and malfeasance regarding the KeystoneXL pipeline. In fact, if Issa performed his due diligence as Oversight Committee chairman, he would investigate John Boehner’s ethics violation in connection to the Keystone pipeline, but if Issa will not investigate his own corruption, it is unlikely he will go after Boehner; more on that later.
The Inspector General’s office confirmed last week it was examining evidence the State Department violated ethics guidelines by contracting with an oil industry consultant, Environmental Resources Management (ERM), to draft the Keystone XL environmental impact statement that minimized the pipeline’s devastating impact on U.S. carbon pollution. At issue is why ERM was hired to conduct the study when it had close ties to TransCanada, the American Petroleum Institute, Koch Energy, and other oil industry players involved in heavily lobbying to promote the pipeline’s construction. The State Department’s malfeasance was failing to verify ERM’s contention it had no interest in the pipeline’s construction, and it indicts ERM for deliberately concealing its conflict of interest to benefit financially from the pipeline’s construction. Now, if the Inspector General is investigating conflict of interest of those pushing the pipeline’s construction, Darrell Issa should investigate Speaker John Boehner’s conflict of interest in the pipeline’s approval because he is invested in seven tar sand companies.
Issa is not going to investigate Boehner’s conflict of interest because he is the largest recipient of oil and gas industry cash on the Oversight committee. During his tenure in Congress, Issa’s campaign committee has received $140,350 in campaign contributions from the employees and political action committees of the oil and gas industry, so he will not jeopardize a steady influx of cash. It brings Issa’s ethics into question for failing to investigate Boehner’s conflict of interest, but it is doubtful Issa has any ethical standards and now there are calls for him to face an ethics investigation for profiting from the so-called IRS scandal he directly initiated.
It was reported that the primary reason the IRS targeted conservative groups is because Darrel Issa requested the IRS specifically target “patriot” and “tea party” organizations seeking “social welfare” tax exempt status to conceal their dark money donors. Besides wasting time and taxpayer dollars chasing a phony scandal he put in motion, Issa’s effort resulted in the largest fundraising quarter since he began serving in Congress. In the second quarter of this year, Issa received $450,000 more in campaign contributions than the previous fundraising quarter and it resulted in a petition calling for a House Ethics Committee investigation into his motivation for directing the IRS to give extra scrutiny to “tea party” and “patriot” organizations, and then investigating the IRS for following his instructions and performing their due diligence.
Issa’s corruption and investigations are responsible for the Republican drive to underfund the IRS to prevent them from investigating tax fraud that cost the government roughly $1 trillion dollars in lost revenue last year. It is a concerted effort to hamper the IRS from conducting investigations such as those being called for to investigate the American Legislative Exchange Council’s (ALEC) money laundering scheme and tax evasion. ALEC provided a conduit for corporations to funnel gifts and money to Republican legislators and then write off the illegal “gifts” as charitable contributions on their tax returns because ALEC is designated as a 501(c)(3) tax exempt social welfare organization.
Of all government officials expected to be above corruption and unethical conduct, one would think Supreme Court Justices would be the image of impeccable ethics, but two Justices rival Darrel Issa as corrupt and unethical for using their positions of power to advance their supporters’ agendas. Last week a group of Democrats proposed legislation demanding High Court justices follow a code of conduct every federal judge is held to. It is relatively common knowledge that Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas spent time at a Koch brothers millionaire strategy session in 2010 to take direction on how to rule on Citizens United that gave corporations legal cover to buy Republican candidates, but that is not the only instance of corruption.
In particular, Clarence Thomas failed to report his wife’s earnings from conservative belief tank Heritage Foundation for her teabagger work opposing the Affordable Care Act her husband ruled against last year. Ginni Thomas gave up her position with the teabag group opposing the ACA, but she is back again heading up the “Groundswell” organization dedicated to undermine the ACA’s implementation and promote the Koch brothers’ agenda. If Thomas was a federal judge, he would face ethics charges and be removed from the bench, but the Supreme Court is a law unto itself and is not accountable to any agency or department for ethics violations.
The level of political corruption in Republican and conservative ranks has gotten so blatant that they are finally being targeted for investigations and it may be a case of too little too late. With Republicans in charge of the House, and the nation’s purse strings, they have the ability to thwart any investigation by withholding funding that they are threatening to do to the IRS. In fact, the reason the State Department had to contract with an outside company to investigate the environmental impact of building the Keystone pipeline is because Republicans deliberately withheld funding for internally-driven studies. However, when corrupt politicians are in charge of investigating their own corruption, it is left to the people to demand they face justice the same as any American guilty of criminal malfeasance and the people are finally demanding justice.
ALEC is facing the prospect of an IRS and states’ investigation into tax evasion and ethics violations regarding their money-laundering scheme because Common Cause and Center for Media and Democracy filed complaints with the IRS and several state governments. Last year, the SEC was deluged with calls to investigate John Boehner leading them to seriously consider investigating him for share manipulation due to his false assertions that the KeystoneXL pipeline’s construction would create “hundreds-of-thousands” of jobs. Darrel Issa is facing the prospect of a House Ethics Committee investigation because of a petition demanding an investigation into his contrived IRS scandal that increased his campaign contributions by nearly half-a-million dollars.
America is a nation of laws, and politicians are not immune to investigations and prosecution for violating their public trust. There is a reason why Darrel Issa has a long history of run-ins with the law and continues unabated in a position of power, and why John Boehner continues his unethical behavior in the House; it is all down to never facing the consequences of their corruption. ALEC has been laundering corporate money to send to Republicans since 2006 with impunity because they have not been investigated by the IRS, and Supreme Court Justices Scalia and Thomas continue doing the bidding of the Koch brothers because there is no code of conduct to hold them accountable for judicial malfeasance. The United States government is the people’s government, and if corrupt Republicans refuse to investigate themselves, then it falls to the people to demand that unethical political corruption and influence peddling that is destroying this nation and its people is investigated and prosecuted with extreme prejudice because the fate of the nation, and the people, depend on it.