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Ethics questioned on Capitol Hill

Posted: April 6th, 2018 | Columns, Congressional Watch, Featured, Politics | No Comments

By Andy Cohen | Congressional Watch

Congressman Duncan Hunter (R-50) just can’t seem to buy a break these days. Then again, his troubles are of his own making, so it’s difficult to feel any sympathy for the man and his family. It’s become somewhat of a monthly ritual to chronicle the saga of the Alpine Republican’s continued fall from grace, because each time it appears that he has hit rock bottom, the bottom falls even deeper.

Last month, new details about the federal investigation into Hunter’s campaign finance shenanigans were uncovered, including attending congressional committee meetings inebriated, and frequent meetings with “the bros caucus,” a pack of his (Republican) buddies at the Capital Hill Club in Washington, D.C., often during daytime hours. It was also reported that Hunter is suspected of having had one or more extramarital affairs, including with one young female intern-turned-full-time staffer.

A new investigation by the San Diego Union-Tribune has uncovered an even more troubling pattern of campaign finance expenditures dating all the way back to 2008, Hunter’s first campaign for his father’s old congressional seat. Hunter’s campaign filings have shown 301 separate transactions totaling $138,666 from Hunter’s campaign accounts shelled out at various bars, liquor stores, and “bar dominant restaurants and similar businesses.”

But wait! There’s more! The SDUT dove deep and further discovered that 247 of the 301 transactions took place in Washington, D.C., and not at campaign events in the San Diego area, and that 30 percent of those transactions were for less than $100, indicating that they were not for major campaign events. Roughly half of those disbursements occurred at a notorious lobbyist hangout. But, hey, “Drain the swamp!” Right?

In a bit of good(?) news for Hunter, the House Ethics Committee has again postponed its own investigation into Hunter’s campaign finance forays out of deference to the Justice Department criminal investigation that is ongoing.

Hunter, for his part, believes he’s being treated unfairly.

“I think that the Department of Justice is somewhat biased,” he previously told San Diego’s KUSI TV. “There are individuals there, they like to make big cases, they like to do big things. It makes a name for them. I think that the longer they drag this out, the worse it is for me, and they know that. So, let’s just get it over with.”

It is unconscionable that this man would be allowed to continue to represent the interests of the San Diego region, but sadly that’s likely exactly what will happen, short of a criminal conviction. Recall that it took a federal bribery conviction to remove Duke Cunningham from office, so this scenario is nothing new for San Diego.

Anti-LGBT pride lawsuit dismissed

A federal judge dismissed a lawsuit filed against several members of Congress, including Susan Davis (D-53) for flying a rainbow flag outside their congressional offices. The plaintiff, Chris Sevier, had argued that displaying the rainbow flag, a symbol of LGBT pride, was tantamount to the establishment of a religion, and was thus prohibited by the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

“The rainbow flag is a symbol of commitment to full equality, freedom, and love and I will continue to display it outside my D.C. and San Diego offices,” said Davis in a press statement. “These lawsuits attacking equality only strengthen my resolve to fight to fulfill our nation’s principles of liberty, freedom, and equality.”

Sevier, an attorney who represented himself in the lawsuit, wanted the court to declare homosexuality itself a religion.

“Homosexuality is a series of unproven faith-based assumptions that are at the very least implicitly religious, if not completely absurd,” Sevier wrote in an email to the SDUT. “When someone says they are ‘born gay,’ ‘born with gay genes,’ ‘that they came out of invisible closet and were baptized gay’ — those are naked assertions that cannot be proven and can only be taken on faith. They are insurmountably religious in nature and are unworthy of civil rights protections.”

The judge, it appears, felt otherwise.

The more things change…

Darrell Issa (R-49), who has decided not to run for re-election in 2018, told Fox News that he believes a special prosecutor will eventually take over investigations into the FBI and the Obama administration. Issa, who as the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, oversaw several investigations into the Obama administration that discovered no wrongdoing whatsoever and wasted millions of taxpayer dollars, says he is really, really sure they’ll find something this time.

“My belief is it should be a special counsel,” Issa told Fox News. “I want a special counsel with the same determination and resources to look at the abuses of the FISA process; was the Hillary Clinton email investigation a sham; were there conflicts of interest in the Justice Department?

“I want a special counsel to be appointed with the same resources and the same determination to look at those issues as is Mueller looking at the Trump campaign, and I don’t see that yet.”

Congressional Republicans, it seems, are increasingly desperate to manufacture corruption in the FBI after Special Counsel Robert Mueller, the former director of the FBI under George W. Bush, produced 22 indictments (including 13 Russian agents) with five guilty pleas, and former Trump National Security Adviser Michael Flynn as the big fish (so far).

Issa apparently hasn’t learned anything, even after being ousted as House Oversight chair. Issa still insists that there were “serious scandals” committed by Obama administration officials, including the Benghazi investigation, IRS, ATF, (among others) — all leading to exactly zero indictments which proved to be nothing more than politically motivated salvos, desperate to prove preordained conclusions.

The more things change…

—Andy Cohen is a local freelance writer. Reach him at ac76@sbcglobal.net.

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