The Non-Scandal Scandal
Posted on July 2, 2014
This originally appeared in the Wall Street Journal
You wonder why Congress has approval ratings of 7%?
The fake scandal over a simple change in ethics rules helps explain why.
The professional staff of the House Committee on Ethics had a suggestion: instead of having members of Congress disclose twice, in two different places, who paid for fact-finding trips, the process should be streamlined.
From their perspective, less paperwork, simplicity and one-stop disclosure seemed like a win.
But the media and watchdog groups went crazy. Why? Because for some it is good business to flog a congressional scandal.
And what could be more scandalous than the specter of members of Congress trying to conceal who paid for their junkets?
But there are problems with this narrative:
Start with the fact that lobbyists still can’t pay for junkets.
And full disclosure is still required by the House Ethics Committee.
The committee staff of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) signed off on this rules change, but now that Rep. Pelosi sees political opportunity, she wants the speaker to schedule a vote to restore the old requirement.
After all, one should never let a fake crisis go to waste.
And this is why the American people hate Congress. Even when it tries to do the right thing–such as simplifying a paperwork mandate–media, watchdog groups and even some members try to make that look like the wrong thing.