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Government Ethics
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A 2017 investigation of FEC Chairwoman Ellen Weintraub for potentially unethical behavior determined she had not violated federal rules.

Congressman calls for repeat ethics investigation into FEC chairwoman

This article has been updated following an interview with Weintraub.

Federal Election Commission Chairwoman Ellen Weintraub has been accused of ethical violations that had been previously leveled — and dismissed — two years ago.

In a series of tweets on Thursday, Weintraub responded to a letter sent that same day by Rep. Rodney Davis, ranking member of the House Administration Committee, requesting an investigation into Weintraub for potential violations of federal ethics regulations.

"It's a retread on a complaint made two years ago by a Koch Brother-funded group," Weintraub told The Fulcrum on Friday afternoon. The inspector general's office looked into it and didn't find any evidence. It's the same stuff all over again."

Davis, a Republican from Illinois, outlined three reasons he believes FEC Inspector General Christopher Skinner should investigate Weintraub:

  1. Using government time and official FEC resources to publish her opinions on political matters.
  2. Discussing issues outside the purview of the FEC in national media appearances.
  3. Refusing to recuse herself from matters involving President Trump, despite a perceived bias against him and "apparent conflict of interest."
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While the Democrats and the GOP have been equally represented among lawmakers moving from Capitol Hill to K Street, the 2018 election pushed more Republicans into the lobbying world.

The revolving door has been spinning real fast

At least 176 former members of Congress have become lobbyists or taken some other role trying to influence their former colleagues and other parts of the federal government since 2011, according to a report by OpenSecrets issued Thursday.

OpenSecrets, a nonpartisan research group that tracks money in politics, found that the use of the revolving door between Congress and the private sector was about evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats.

But the lawmakers who left the Capitol at the end of last year and moved quickly into the influence industry are mostly in the GOP. That's mainly because the wave of departures, either voluntary or forced by the voters, was disproportionately Republican following the Democratic gains in the 2018 midterm election.

Most of these former members were hired by K Street lobbying firms or major law firms, the report found. Squire Patton Boggs and Akin Gump each have hired five former members since the 111th Congress ended in 2010.

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Renaldo Pearson, in baseball cap, and other Represent Us protesters at the Capitol.

Long walk, minimal footprint for one democracy reform protester

If a man walks hundreds of miles so he can stage a photogenic protest on the Capitol steps, then disappears into a crowd of other demonstrators without saying a word on camera, does he actually accomplish his goal?

Renaldo Pearson insists the answer is a qualified yes.

Supported by RepresentUs, which bills itself as the nation's biggest grassroots group pushing for fairer elections and less money in politics, Pearson really did walk almost 700 miles from Atlanta to Washington. And he did so in just 47 days, which may have done more to complicate his cause than to help it.

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Balance of Power
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Speaker Nancy Pelosi might want to follow the path created in 1998 by the GOP Judiciary Committee, which focused the Clinton impeachment on the work of independent counsel Ken Starr (standing).

To boost Hill credibility, some clues from the last impeachment

The very course of American history is shifting with the formalized launch of an impeachment inquiry against President Trump. And for those who view democracy as broken, and well beyond all the recently alleged abuses of executive power, one important undercurrent is captured by this question:

Can Congress use the proceedings to recalibrate the balance of power, reclaiming even a bit of the muscle it's allowed to atrophy to the benefit of presidents for so long — and maybe even end up boosting its abysmal public reputation as dysfunctional and polarized?

It's a big reach. But the ingredients are there for Capitol Hill to reap lasting institutional benefit from the coming drama, and for American democracy to be better off at the end, no matter what the outcome for Trump.

Looking to emulate aspects of the last impeachment is a place to start.

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