Eliza Newlin Carney
The American Prospect
Originally published June 28, 2018
Here is an excerpt:
What’s most stunning about Pruitt’s never-ending ethics saga is not the millions in taxpayer dollars he wasted on first-class, military and private travel to exotic locales, on ‘round the clock security details and on over-the-top office furnishings. The real shocker is that federal ethics officials, having amassed an extraordinary paper trail showing that Pruitt violated multiple rules that bar self-dealing, employee retaliation, unauthorized pay raises and more, have been essentially helpless to do anything about it.
And therein lies the root problem exposed by this administration’s utter disregard for ethics norms: Executive Branch ethics laws are alarmingly weak and out of date. For decades, ethics watchdogs have warned Congress that a patchwork of agencies and officers scattered throughout the government lack the resources and authority to really police federal ethics violations. But since past administrations have typically paid a bit more attention to the Office of Government Ethics (OGE), which oversees executive branch ethics programs, the holes in federal oversight have gone largely unnoticed.
But now that we have a president who, along with much of his cabinet, appears entirely impervious to the OGE’s guidelines and warnings, as well as to a torrent of unfavorable news coverage, the system’s shortfalls have become impossible to ignore. In theory, the Justice Department, the Office of White House Counsel, or Congress could fill in the gaps to help check this administration’s abuses. But none of Trump’s Hill allies or administration appointees has shown the slightest inclination to hold him to account.
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