You must find a way to get in the way and get in good trouble, necessary trouble. To save this little piece of real estate that we call earth for generations yet unborn… You have a moral obligation, a mission and a mandate when you leave here to go out and seek justice, for all. You can do it, you must do it. – John Lewis
Heroes and Ethics: 4 Actions
On Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend, it’s fitting to start our conversation by talking about a few heroes.
First, John Lewis. American icon, civil rights hero, and the “conscience of the Congress.” The image above is a young John Lewis at the Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama. As you have probably seen, he finally called Trump’s presidency for what it is: illegitimate. For that, he’s gotten both praise and condemnation. He will not attend the inauguration; after he publicly said he would not attend, 21 other democratic legislators decided to sit this one out, too. Here is a list so that you can thank your congressman/woman if they’ve decided to take a pass on the inauguration.
- Action #1: Missouri voters – Lacy Clay will not be attending the inauguration. Call him ((202) 225-2406), tweet him, or send him a thank you card.
- Action #2: There’s another democratic legislator from Missouri (the 5th District) that hasn’t said whether he is attending or not: Emanuel Cleaver. Maybe he just needs some constituent support, which you can provide at @repcleaver, (202) 225-4535, (816) 842-4545, or on Facebook.
Second, Walter Shaub. He’s the Director of the Office of Government Ethics. After Trump announced that he would not divest himself of his ownership interest in his businesses, Director Shaub gave an empassioned speech (which you can watch here or read here) describing in great detail why Trump’s “plan” does not resolve his conflicts. Almost immediately after, Jason Chaffetz, the Chairman of the House Committee on Oversight, sent a letter to Director Shaub calling his motives into question and demanding that he meet with the Committee in a closed-door hearing. Reince Prebus has said that Shaub needs to “watch out.” Lovely.
Richard Painter, George W. Bush’s ethics lawyer had this to say: “They are strong-arming them … It is political retaliation.” Norm Eisen, Obama’s ethics lawyer, agreed, saying: “It’s open season on ethics in D.C.”
Umm. That doesn’t sound good.
Lucky for us, there’s something and someone we can get behind:
Acton #3: Here’s the something: Senate Bill 65 and House Bill 371 (the Presidential Conflicts of Interest Act of 2017) were introduced last Monday.
Senate Bill 65 (which has 23 co-sponsors) would “require the President and Vice President to disclose and divest any potential financial conflicts of interest.” Senate Bill 65 has been referred to the Senate Committee on Homeland Security & Gov’t Affairs. Missouri voters, Claire McCaskill is the ranking democrat on that committee. Please, call her offices and ask her to support the bill and try to get it through committee quickly.
- (314) 367-1364 (StL)
- (573) 442-7130 (Columbia)
- (816) 421-1639 (KC)
- (202) 224-6154 (DC)
Script: “I am a constituent of Senator McCaskill’s. I am calling in support of Senate Bill 65, the Presidential Conflicts of Interest Act, which requires the President to disclose and divest any potential financial conflicts of interest. Divesting financial conflicts of interest is not too great a price to pay to be the President of the United States of America. I want the Senator to support the bill and to do all that she can to get this bill through the Homeland Security Committee quickly.”
The other senators that are in the committee are John McCain (AZ), Ron Johnson (Wis), Rob Portman (OH), Thomas Carper (DE), Jon Tester (MT), Rand Paul (KY), James Lankford (Ok), Heidi Heitkamp (ND), Gary Peters (MI), Michael Enzi (WY), John Hoeven (ND), Margaret Hassan (NH), Kamala Harris (CA), Steve Daines (MT). If you are a constituent of any of those senators, please call them. Here’s a link to the Homeland Security Committee, which links to their websites.
Action #4: Here’s the someone: Walter Shaub. If you live in the St. Louis area, call Lacy Clay, who is on the Oversight Committee (at least so far as I can tell; the House has not updated their committee assignments yet).
Script: I am a constituent and a voter and I have two messages for Congressman Clay.
First: I am calling to support the Director of the Office of Government Ethics, Walter Shaub. I understand that Chairman Chaffetz wants to investigate why Director Shaub has pointed out the conflicts of interests that the President-elect refuses to resolve, and I find that troubling. The Committee on Oversight is supposed to investigate ethics violations, not strong arm people who call out the president-elect’s significant and unresolved conflicts of interest. I encourage Congressman Clay to do whatever he can to support Director Shaub.
Second: I am also calling to thank Congressman Clay for cosponsoring HB 371, the Presidential Conflicts of Interest Act. I understand it has been referred to the Ways and Means, Judiciary, and Oversight Committees. As a member of the Oversight Committee, I hope that Congressman Clay will do everything in his power to move that legislation forward as fast as possible.
Russian Interference: 3 Actions (But just one message delivered to three elected officials. Piece of cake!)
I mean, where do I start?
I suppose I start here – an opposition research dossier containing allegations ranging from sexual improprieties to treasonous collaboration between the Trump campaign and Russia. The now-infamous dossier was written by Christopher Steele, a former MI6 investigator who has now “gone to ground.” Although the allegations in the dossier have not been confirmed, they have also not been denied and were credible enough that the FBI and the CIA were investigating. Alarmingly, James Comey (FBI Director) had a copy of the dossier in the summer but did not see fit to tell voters about its contents. Because it didn’t seem like the FBI was doing anything with the information he provided, and because Steele was sufficiently concerned that the FBI was compromised, he went to David Corn at Mother Jones – who wrote an article that came out October 31 – but fizzled because, well, e-mails. Eventually Steele provided the dossier to an emissary of Senator John McCain. McCain then delivered the dossier to James Comey (who already had it, but hat tip to McCain, again).
Also, Michael Flynn, the soon-to-be-National Security Advisor, had five telephone calls with Russia on the same day the Russian sanctions were announced. And in October the CIA apparently had a task force looking into Russian funding of Trump’s campaign.
Even so, the Senate Intelligence Committee had refused to investigate the Trump campaign’s ties with Russia. *Quizzical look* But on Friday, James Comey gave both the House and Senate an “all member briefing” and feathers were certainly ruffled after those briefings. By Friday evening, the Senate Intelligence Committee did an about face and decided to investigate Trump’s Russian ties.
I could go on, but it’s depressing and alarming, and let’s just get to the point.
In the House briefing on Friday, James Comey said that he would “only disclose an ongoing investigation if the public had an overwhelming need to know about it or if it was obvious there was one underway. He said he did not believe any possible investigation into Trump or his associates met either standard.” Nancy Pelosi disagreed, saying that we are “owed the truth,” and “[t]here is a great deal of evidence to say that this is an issue of high interest to the American people.”
I don’t know about you, but I think whether Trump colluded with Russia is of THE HIGHEST interest to me, and I sure do think I have an overwhelming need to know whether the next president has committed treason.
Actions #1, #2, #3… Call. Call, and call. Call both of your senators and your rep. Express dismay, concern, and press upon our elected officials that this is not normal and this is quite urgent. If your Senators and Representative are not yet in your speed dial (which you should totally do!) here is a link to find them here and here.
Script: I am a constituent and a voter. I am dismayed that our president-elect may have colluded with Russia to win the election. If that’s true, it’s my understanding that he has committed treason. FBI director James Comey has said that he does not believe the American people have “an overwhelming need to know” about the FBI’s investigation into this. I disagree. The American people need to know whether our commander in chief is compromised by, or collaborating with a foreign power. I ask you to urge Director Comey to come forward publicly with his investigation, and to do everything in your power to make this investigation as transparent as possible. The American people deserve that much. I’ll be following this story and your reaction to it closely.
The Beginning of the Repeal of the ACA: 3 Actions
In both the House and the Senate, the GOP has decided to start the process of repealing the ACA, without a replacement option. Rand Paul may be introducing a replacement bill this week. Because they have to go through stages of repeal, we can and should protest like h@ll.
- Action #1: It’s time to call your Reps and Senators and let them know where you stand on the ACA.
- Say: I am a constituent and a voter. I am firmly opposed to the repeal of the ACA. Leaving 20 million people who are insured through the ACA with no option, and with no certainty that an option will become available, is unacceptable.
- Action #2: Missouri Health Care for All has rallies planned for Tuesday 1/17 rush hour. You can find more details here, or you can follow them on Facebook.
- Action #3: Social media: Missouri Health Care for All encourages folks to take a picture of themselves holding a sign saying “Don’t Take My Health Care”. Use hashtags #KeepOurCare #SaveACA #Reckless
- Pro Tip: If you tag your senators/representatives, someone in their office WILL see that post/tweet. Don’t just mention them – tag them.
Marches/Protests: 2 Resources to check out
There are 370 marches and protests planned for January 21 – in the United States, but also around the world. In St. Louis the Women’s March will begin at 9:00 a.m. at Union Station and progress down to Ely Smith park (at the riverfront). Men and children are welcome, too!
Action #1: If you are attending any marches or protests, here is a helpful description of your rights. If you are going to Washington D.C., the ACLU has provided very helpful D.C. specific guides here.
Action #2: In addition, the ACLU has a pretty nifty mobile app that is available for 17 states (Missouri is one of them) and the District of Columbia. The app makes it very easy to record a situation in progress – and when you finish recording, the video is immediately sent to the ACLU. You are given the opportunity to add details, and to provide your contact information – but unless you affirmatively add your name and contact information the video or any information you provide is anonymous. Check it out here.
I know this is a lot. But together, we can do this. Really. We can.