The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has filed a congressional ethics complaint against their counterpart, the National Republican Campaign Committee. Ethics complaints against Republicans have been on an upswing, after the Republican-held House buried almost everything. Also, Republicans have been doing more crimes these days. (See: Duncan Hunter.)
At issue in this instance: The DCCC asserts that NRCC chair Rep. Tom Emmer is brazenly breaking House ethics rules, citing "multiple instances" of NRCC campaign trackers "chase and badger[ing] Democratic members of Congress in House office buildings." Campaign activities are not allowed inside House buildings; this would seem self-evidently a campaign activity.
A "tracker," for those unfamiliar with the shorthand term, is a video or audio-recording member of a campaign or political group tasked with following an opposing candidate to as many events as possible, looking to catch (or directly provoke) a political gaffe that can be used against them. It has become commonplace now that camera equipment can consist of a single smartphone—when the candidate is on the campaign trail, holding rallies or public town halls.
It's a completely different thing for the House Republican chairing the House Republican's political arm to order its employees to follow opposing House members through the halls of Congress itself, impeding or attempting to impede fellow lawmakers doing their government-paid House duties. Or at least it seems to be; in any event, it goes against the prohibition of "campaign" activities inside the House, which is what the DNCC is asking Emmer be investigated for.
The DCCC is not sugarcoating its language, either. “Sadly this kind of behavior is par for the course for an organization that has spent this election cycle publishing racist ads, denigrating servicemembers, attacking spouses of members of Congress, and disseminating disinformation. I wish we could say we expected better. But Emmer and the NRCC are clearly committed to dragging their own politics even deeper into the gutter," says the statement from DCCC Executive Director Lucinda Guinn.
Par for the course is right. Freed from ethical constraints by Trump's own success in simply ignoring longstanding ethics rules outright, the new House Republican motto is If it isn't illegal, do it. And if it is illegal, maybe do it anyway.
For now, Emmer's new boundary-pushing goes to the Office of Congressional Ethics for further investigation. In the long term it seems impossible to believe that the current crop of House Republicans will make it through the Trump and post-Trump years without a good number of them joining the likes of Chris Collins and Duncan Hunter in federal courthouses; people who ignore ethical lines because they can tend to believe they can ignore legal lines as well, so long as they don't get caught.
If House Republicans are willing to make the sort of arguments and take the sort of actions we've seen them take in public, in other words, imagine what they must try when they think nobody's looking.
Published with permission of Daily Kos