Offering frequent news and analysis from the majestic Evergreen State and beyond, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Doc Hastings is a lump of coal

As Predator-gate continues to grow, it's worth pausing a moment to consider what might have been done to protect pages, had the Republican leadership cared to have a functioning system that deals with ethical (and thus by implication) legal issues in the U.S. House.

It's no secret that Doc Hastings, the Republican who represents Washington's 4th Congressional District, was placed into his spot as chair of the ethics committee in order to protect Tom Delay. Or so it seemed at the time, in early 2005.

Now that it's being reported a GOP staff member was warning pages to watch out for Mark Foley as early as 2001, it's time for Hastings to state what he knew. Just because he's an empty suit doesn't mean he gets a free pass.

Now, I have no reason to think Hastings knew about Foley, mainly because Hastings is a lump of coal. It's easy to believe that the real powers in the GOP don't tell him anything. Hasting's biography does play up his spot on the rules committee, though, so I suppose technically he could be considered part of House leadership, despite his lump-like lack of activity.

Even if Hastings knew nothing about Foley's actions, it does not excuse Hastings from moral culpability. Hastings has been a lump of coal on purpose; the sole intent of his chairmanship was to render the ethics committee powerless. And this is what you get--a Congress that is accountable to nobody. (Don't forget that it was the GOP that changed things so that members of the public are not allowed to file complaints with the ethics committee.)

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) sent a letter to the ethics committee over the weekend demanding an investigation. The Republicans are claiming there will be an investigation, but it's hard to see how having a lump of coal investigate this is going to be very useful. CREW is also calling for an independent counsel, which makes sense.

Folks can start asking whether Hastings was aware of the allegations about Foley and proceed from there. It is a perfectly legitimate question to ask.

Citizens in Washington's 4th Congressional district deserve to know what their congresscritter knew, and when he knew it.

If he knew nothing, he should say so. And he should explain why he is a lump of coal, and how that benefits eastern Washington.

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