Posts tagged ‘Watergate’

“Is this still America?”

This is not good. This is very bad. Very, very bad.

The IRS under the Obama administration painted targets on the backs of conservatives beginning in 2010, and ousted acting IRS commissioner Steven Miller apologized to the House Ways and Means Committee on Friday. But members on both sides of the aisle were furious, and castigated him for the mismanagement and political gamesmanship the IRS engaged in on his watch.

Texas Republican congressman Kevin Brady had the harshest criticism for Miller.

‘Is this still America?’ he asked him.

‘Is this government so drunk on power that it would turn its full force, its full might, to harass, and intimidate, and threaten an average American who only wants her voice, their voices heard?’

‘The American public deserves better,’ Miller agreed. But both he and J. Russell George, the Treasury Department’s Inspector General for Tax Administration, insisted that no IRS employees engaged in political witch-hunting.

‘Is this still America?’ Congressional hearing turns into IRS smackdown as disgraced former commissioner and Treasury Inspector General face tea-party scandal questions

Very bad. This is thugocracy run amok.

And the IRS is the agency responsible for administering Obamacare penalties? YIKES!

Uh oh: Democrat Baucus warns: More to come out on IRS scandal

The revelations also spurred calls for investigations into the practices of the administration of President Barack Obama and allegations of a potential cover-up operation.

“It’s an abuse of power and it smells of Watergate,” said Bob Quasius, the president of the conservative Latino group Café con Leche, referring to the political scandal that led to the impeachment of President Richard Nixon.

“I think it goes to the top levels of his administration,” Quasius added. “If it doesn’t directly connect to him it at least connects to someone close to him.”

Conservative Hispanic Groups Targeted In IRS Scandal

Ozymandias

Unfortunately, it seems that the future Aldous Huxley predicted in 1932, in Brave New World, is arriving early. Mockery, truculence, and minimalist living are best, then enjoy the decline. However, we do need a Revolving Door Tax (RDT), learn what Members of Congress pay in taxes, and prosecute politicians and staff and their “family and friends” who profit from insider trading.

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Congressional Oversight and Investigative Hearings

Although there are many different types of congressional hearings, some of the most well known and often discussed in the media are oversight and investigative hearings. Such hearings may be conducted whenever a committee chooses to do so, although they are often conducted in association with a public policy question or an accountability matter. Oversight hearings can also be combined with authorization or legislative hearings, particularly whenever there is a routine review of a federal program.

Looking For Clues (188 / 365)
Creative Commons License photo credit: somegeekintn

In many ways, the oversight function of Congress is like a quality control study. Oversight and investigative hearings can include periodic and selective reviews of federal agencies and departments as well as their policies, activities and programs. This especially relates to the way in which federal laws, programs and regulations are administered. Oversight hearings can focus on federal program quality.

The goal of an oversight hearing is typically to ensure that the agencies of the executive branch are administering federal programs in the way that Congress intended. Such hearings can also be used for the purpose of correcting behavior of the executive branch. Congress may utilize oversight hearings to enhance the effectiveness, responsiveness and efficiency of government operations and programs while also working to identify and eliminate fraud and abuse. Overall, oversight hearings form an effective tool for congressional committees to scrutinize the implementation of programs and laws by the executive branch.

The focus of investigative hearings usually involves the Testifying Before Congress, by William LaForgesuspicion or the suggestion of wrongdoing within governmental ranks. In some cases, it can even involve possible allegations of a criminal nature. Investigative hearings are similar in many ways to other types of congressional hearings; however, a major difference involves the focus on wrongdoing or a breach of responsibility. Congress, as well as congressional committees, have quite a broad authority related to investigatory hearings. Problems that are uncovered during an investigative hearing can often lead to new legislation that may relate to federal funding or result in referral to a federal or state court.

Some of the most famous examples of congressional investigations include the Titanic investigation of 1912, the Teapot Dome scandal investigation, the Army-McCarthy Hearings in 1954, the Watergate investigation in the early 70s and the Iran-Contra investigation in 1987.

To learn more about preparing to testify before Congress, consider attending our workshop Preparing and Delivering Congressional Testimony, also available for custom, on-site training.

Reference: Testifying Before Congress, by William LaForge, Section 1.56 Oversight and Investigative Hearings.

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Some Problems with Current Campaign Finance Laws

Current campaign finance laws came about as a result of the Watergate scandal during the 1970s. Supporters of these laws enacted them with good intentions, of course. They primarily believed that campaign contributions resulted in the corruption of politicians. It was thought that a law that limited contributions would limit political corruption. Unfortunately, we have now reached a situation in which campaign finance laws limit contributions in a complex manner that creates consequences that were never intended.

House Chamber

Campaign finance laws currently protect incumbents, while simultaneously creating traps for candidates who spend extraordinary amounts of time fundraising. Furthermore, these laws also prevent individuals who are not skilled in fundraising on a large scale from winning elections.

Looking at the problems of current campaign finance laws, the question of whether campaign contributions necessarily result in corruption must be posed. Some of the most well known cases of congressional corruption in recent years involved members who took cash bribes. These cases did not involve campaign contributions. For instance, former Representative Duke Cunningham of California was said to maintain a menu for bribes that revealed the official actions that would be taken by him in exchange for various amounts of cash. He was convicted of corruption.

A Better Congress: Change the Rules, Change the Results: A Modest Proposal - Citizen's Guide to Legislative ReformEven so, it can be much more difficult to determine whether campaign contributions are actually corrupting. Almost every member of Congress accepts contributions from interests. Those members must then vote on legislation that will affect those very same interests. Unfortunately, it is not possible to know whether the politician votes a particular way because of contributions or whether contributions come about because the interest group knows the member would have voted that way regardless.

Putting aside any corruption aspects, limits on campaign fundraising naturally mean that candidates must spend significant amounts of time in fundraising efforts if they wish to compete. For the incumbent candidate, this means they are not able to spend time making wise policy decisions. For the challenger, this provides a strong disincentive to even consider running for office. If they do make the decision to go ahead and run, the time spent on raising money is time they cannot devote to developing strong policy ideas.

As the cost of campaigning continues to increase; the campaign fundraising issue only becomes worse.

Are you interested in learning more about persuading Congress? Sign up for TheCapitol.Net’s 1-day course Strategies for Working with Congress: Effective Communication and Advocacy on Capitol Hill and their 3-day Capitol Hill Workshop.

Reference: A Better Congress, by Joseph Gibson, Ch. 1 The Fortress of Incumbency

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