Monday, November 27, 2017

Washington & Frankfort: Some Thoughts

In Frankfort recently we have seen the sexual harassment tragedies bring down a good man, Republican House speaker Jeff Hoover, a stunning blow to many of us. But while the end result of this is still not known, there are some things we can comment on.  Whatever money was paid to settle his case, it did not come from public funds although we have only the assurances of state officials here. Since we do not know from where it came, we are taking this on faith.
In Washington, where  at least one previous House speaker, also a Republican, Dennis Hastert, was forced to resign in another sexual case, such settlements may well have been paid from public funds...that is money from you and me, and there is NO public accounting of this. (Which may well violate the Constitution, more later.)
Since 1997 Congress has paid out at least $15 million to settle similar cases, the latest being that of Mich. Democrat John Conyers, who at 88 is the longest serving member of the present House. All such settlements against what member and how much are kept secret and are paid by a special fund in the Treasury set up by Congress in 1995; and on the OK of just 2 members, the chair and ranking member (the top GOP and Democratic member) of the committee where the offending member has his chief committee seat.  So 2 people can spend taxpayer funds. (And you thought there had to be a vote by the full Congress!!)
Other than the secrecy involved Congress takes care of its own even before the nation, and certainly before us citizens...this probably violates a section of the Constitution which says the Treasury shall pay the Nation’s(??) debts, when approved by Congress (??) and “from time to time” shall make “a public accounting.”
Of course “from time to time” could mean 100 years from now; much as Senator McConnell argued the Senate did not have to take up President Obama’s nomination to the Supreme Court within any definite time, and indeed waited a year before Trump was elected so a more conservative choice would come before the Senate. (Most Constitutional scholars, as well as myself think Mitch was dead wrong.) One person should not have been able to effectively amend the Constitution, which he did.
If you think this was wrong, here is a burning issue: public money being paid, in secret, to settle the private violations of the law—then mark your calendars to raise it when Kentucky Congressmen, including local Rep. Andy Barr, and his Democratic challenger come before you next year.
In the meantime, there is a proposed 28th amendment to the Constitution going around. If passed it would prevent Congress from exempting itself from the same laws that govern the rest of us...and that, too, is an issue to lay before candidates for Congress, as well as state House & Senate members, who can—and should—petition Congress to pass it.
I'm just sayin'...

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