Back in 2006, a series of financial, ethical, sexual scandals involving MZM, Jack Abramoff, and improper relationships with congressional pages was a key factor in House Republican’ losing their majority. Eager to prove they had learned their lesson, then-Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) vowed in 2010 that if the GOP won back the majority, he (as majority leader) and his conference would ensure the highest possible ethical standards.
“I think as the Republicans emerge as a new governing majority, it is incumbent upon us to institute a zero-tolerance policy,” Cantor vowed at the time. “We understand there were reasons for our being fired in ’06 and ’08. Some of that had to do with ethics violations. I mean we had several members under public investigations during the time of the ’06 elections. I think we’ve learned that that’s not a good way to gain the confidence of the people and that we ought to be instituting a zero-tolerance policy here.”
Eight years later, the House GOP leadership is no longer even pretending that that is their policy.
On Wednesday, after Rep. Chris Collins (R-NY) was indicted on multiple federal counts of securities fraud and other crimes involving insider trading, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) did not demand his resignation or move to expel his colleague, rather punting the matter to the ethics panel and temporarily stripping him of one committee assignment. “While his guilt or innocence is a question for the courts to settle, the allegations against Rep. Collins demand a prompt and thorough investigation by the House Ethics Committee,” Ryan said. (Attorneys for Collins have denied the charges on his behalf).
But Collins is not the only current House Republican who Ryan and the GOP leadership have stood by as their ethics have been called into question.
- At least eight former wrestlers at the Ohio State University have accused Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) of turning a blind eye to widespread sexual abuse by a team doctor during his tenure as an assistant wrestling coach. Ryan rejected calls for an ethics investigation praising Jordan as “a man of honesty and a man of integrity.” Jordan is currently running to succeed Ryan as Speaker.
- In June, the House Ethics Committee launched a full-scale investigation into allegations that Rep. David Schweikert (R-AZ) received illegal campaign contributions and whether he and/or his chief of staff may have improperly used official funds. Ryan has not punished him and he continues to sit on the powerful House Ways and Means Committee.
- In April, the Ethics Committee expanded an investigation into alleged misuse of $100,000 worth of campaign funds by Rep. John Duncan (R-TN). Duncan has not been punished by Ryan and continues to serve as vice chair of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
- In March, the ethics committee deferred an investigation into possible campaign finance law violations by Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) at the request of the U.S. Department of Justice. The feds are reportedly investigating and a grand jury was reportedly impaneled earlier this year. He has not been punished by the GOP leadership and continues to serve as a Transportation and Infrastructure Committee subcommittee chair.
- Last month, congressional investigations were reportedly launched into whether Rep. Tom Garrett (R-VA) used his House staff to run personal errands for him and whether his alcohol consumption interfered with his duties. He has not been punished and remains on key committees including Homeland Security and Foreign Affairs.
Moreover, Special Counsel Robert Mueller reportedly has been examining the role of Rep. Dana Rohrbacher (R-CA) in Russia’s attempts to influence the Trump campaign. Indeed Ryan’s number two, Rep. Kevin McCarhty (R-CA) even told colleagues in 2016: “There’s two people I think Putin pays: Rohrabacher and Trump.” Still, Rohrbacher serves as a chairman of a the Committee on Foreign Affairs’s Europe, Eurasia and Emerging Threats subcommittee.