Ethics are applied unequally to politicians

Andrew Leal, Print Managing Editor

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Congresswoman Katie Hill of California’s 25th District made her final speech on the House floor Oct. 31, just four days after announcing her resignation from an office she was elected to last year. She initially denied allegations that she had inappropriate relations with a campaign staffer but later admitted they were true. And private explicit photos were found depicting her nude and others showing her kissing the staffer. A House ethics investigation was opened to determine if Hill’s conduct violated House rules. 

The investigation into Hill’s alleged involvement with a staffer is necessary given the evidence and the seriousness of the accusation. The same scrutiny is not applied to all elected officials equally but it needs to be in all cases given the power they hold.

Ethics investigations into elected officials are not entirely rare in Congress, within the last 10 years there have been about 40 instances where a violation was found, according to govtrack.us. 

In 2017, Al Franken, then a senator, was accused of multiple instances of sexual misconduct by eight women from his past before being elected by the people of Minnesota. The Senate opened an ethics investigation into Franken but he denied the accusations. 

“I know there’s been a very different picture of me painted over the last few weeks, but I know who I really am,” Franken said in his Dec. 7, 2017 final Senate speech. “I know in my heart that nothing I’ve done as a senator, nothing, has brought dishonor on this institution.” 

Democrats in the Senate made calls for his resignation before the investigation could be completed, leaving him with virtually no support and assumed guilt before evidence. “He should step down immediately, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schummer said after praising his accomplishments and calling Franken, “a dear friend.”

The accusations between Hill and Franken were different but both ended the same way: resignation. 

Democratic leaders in the House were not making calls for Hill’s resignation, they focused their attention on the leaked photos rather than the accusations of an ethics violation. 

“Katie Hill’s decision to resign is her decision to resign,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said and she indicated sadness that Hill was leaving the House. 

The lack of even scrutiny towards accused elected officials who allegedly violated ethics rules does not end with the democrats. 

During the 2016 presidential election President Donald Trump, who was a candidate at the time, was accused of inappropriate contact with women from affairs to sexual harassment. And it continued on well into his presidency.

About 15 women have come forward with accusations against Trump with no White House led investigations to look into it.

Trump was called to resign by a member of his own party, Congressman Justin Amash of Massachusetts. Amash did not ask Trump to resign based on the accusations of sexual misconduct but did ask in response to the Mueller report. 

Despite push the push back from a member of his own party at the time, Trump is still president with no active investigations into the sexual misconduct by the White House.  

The typical pathway for politicians is to deny, then admit and resign or in Trump’s case continue in office unchallenged. 

What politicians should do is face the accusations in ethics investigations all the way through no matter what level of government they represent. 

No one person is above the rules.