How state political parties can organize to ensure politicians remain ethical
The attacks on the United States Capitol on January 6, 2021 underscored the need for voters to become vigilant in electing only politicians of the highest integrity. Our founders created the Constitution to ensure that political candidates are people of integrity, and they stated that those politicians should only remain in office if they demonstrate good behavior. Members of Congress in both the United States Senate and House of Representatives are spreading lies and inciting voters to act in illegal ways. Our individual ability to demand that our representatives in Congress remain ethical is limited.
When the Founders created the Constitution, they were primarily concerned with forming a government that would last. They made a mistake when they formed US Const. Art. I, Sec. 6, Cl. 1, known as the speech or debate clause, (1) which gives members of Congress immunity for their conduct during a session. The US Supreme Court has ruled that Congress has immunity from civil suits and certain crimes. Although the Founders did not grant Congress immunity for crimes such as breach of the peace, felony, or treason, the US Supreme Court has severely limited the ability of prosecutors to bring criminal charges against members of Congress. This protection from civil and criminal penalties prevents members of Congress from acting inappropriately. On our own, we have little legal recourse to persuade our representatives to uphold ethical and legal standards.
The Constitution gives each house of Congress the power to make rules and discipline other members, but you’ll rarely see or hear Congress expel a member of Congress for misconduct. Party loyalty and other considerations create an atmosphere where ethical standards are not followed or enforced. As a result of the limited system of checks and balances for members of congress, they become less ethical every year. If state political parties become more organized, they will have the ability to band together to persuade congressmen to uphold the law and ethical standards.
Political parties in each state should encourage their members to formally join the state political party, which will bring together large blocs of voters who can have the power of a lobbyist. Each member’s contact information can be used to send a monthly message to their party, trying to make uniform messages to their representative about what you want them to support. A message to your state senator or representative stating: “We have 2,000,000 voters willing to vote for a politician who will enforce ethical standards by impeaching US Senator _____ for incitement to violence.” A large and united political party actively seeking ethical standards of our politicians will get results. People generally don’t like to be bothered too much, so it will only work if party messages are limited to once a month, 12 a year.
On July 3, 1980, Congress passed the “Code of Ethics for Civil Service.” (2) There are ten ethical standards, such as putting country before political party and other admirable requirements. However, a United States Attorney has issued a legal opinion in court that this law cannot be applied in a civil or criminal context. This lawyer has gutted those ethical standards that there is no way to enforce. I think I read that the US Attorney who wrote this legal opinion was unanimously nominated as a judge by Congress. In addition, Congress rarely upholds the law or ethical standards for members of the executive branch who commit perjury, nor does it ensure that the Court upholds the Constitution. The blame for the attacks on the US Capitol is on the American people because we are not participating actively enough to make good changes in our government. The digital age of lightning-fast communications and political party press releases seeking party organization and unification gives us the opportunity to be united to ensure that our government no longer embarrasses us and our nation.
(1) Todd Garvey, (1 December 2017), “Understanding the Speech or Debate Clause” Congressional Research Service (CRS). Federation of American Scientists (FAS). R45043. [p. 6]. Publicly available at https://fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/R45043.pdf
(2) LII Staff, (1980), “Annex to Part 73 – Code of Ethics for Civil Service” LII/Legal Information Institute. Cornell Law School. Publicly available at https://www.law.cornell.edu/cfr/text/34/appendix-to_part_73
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