By Penny Smith
Rachael Bade, “Ethics report: Meadows’ staff complained of harassment,” Politico (updated 8/17/2016); “Ethics Office: Meadows Likely in Violation of House Rules,” Roll Call (posted August 17, 2016); “OCE Referral regarding Rep. Mark Meadows,” Office of Congressional Ethics, August 17, 2016 (includes clickable addenda of 97 pages of exhibits and an 18-page report) . Kyle Cheney and John Bresnahan, “What is the Office of Congressional Ethics and Why Does It Matter?” Politico (January 3, 2017).
The American Democracy Legal Fund (ADLF) called for an investigation of Mark Meadows in 2015 for possible ethics violations. The case involved Meadows’ Chief-of-Staff and one-time primary opponent, Kenny West, whose conduct with women in the DC office caused several of them to complain to the Deputy Chief-of-Staff about sexual harassment. According to the filed complaint:
House rules prohibit members and employees from engaging in
sexual harassment and prohibit members from retaining and paying
staffers who are no longer performing the duties for which they
were hired … It is clear that Rep. Meadows did not act forcefully
enough to stop the known instances of sexual harassment that occurred
in his office and that he continued to pay Mr. West at his chief-of-staff
rate well after he was no longer acting in that capacity. (Brad Woodhouse,
In the same Woodhouse letter:
Rep. Meadows knew that Mr. West had a history of inappropriate
behavior around women, yet he took no steps to ensure that the
women in his office were protected from that behavior until three
women in his office confronted him about his chief-of-staff’s conduct.
And, incredibly, when faced with the accusations directly, Rep. Meadows
did not dismiss Mr. West but simply moved him to another office where
his behavior could continue to negatively impact the work environment.
Most of this information was available before the 2016 election and it would periodically pop up in candidate debates. However, I can’t help but wonder what would have happened to Representative Meadows had this scenario played out in late 2017. He appears to have played the “reassignment of a harasser” game associated with Catholic Church offenders – put the bad apple out of sight, but keep him on the payroll.
The OCE recommendations regarding Representative Meadows were to open a formal inquiry, since it appeared Meadows had violated House rules. It also recommended subpoenas for Meadows and members of his staff, who failed to cooperate with the initial inquiry.
The Office of Congressional Ethics “is an independent, non-partisan entity charged with receiving and reviewing allegations of misconduct concerning House Members and staff.” It was created in 2008 after a series of House scandals and is a fact-finding organization. The OCE does not charge anyone with violations, but does make recommendations to the House Committee on Ethics.
In January, 2017, the House Judiciary Committee, following a meeting of the Republican caucus, announced that the OEC would be gutted. Immediately, there was a backlash from some of the GOP leadership, President-elect Trump, and government watchdogs, causing the change to be dropped from the rules adopted by the House. In January of this year the GOP inserted language in the CAA Reform Act that effectively reduces the OEC’s ability to monitor, essentially trying to do what they failed to do in 2017.
Unfortunately, referrals to the House Committee on Ethics often go there to rust. The disposition of Mr. Meadows case appears not yet to be resolved.
WHY ALL THAT MIGHT MATTER
Tara Golshan, “Meet the Most Powerful Man in the House,” Vox, posted on August 28, 2018. (This is an important overview of Meadows and his connections in DC. Remember, too, that Meadows is an ALEC-Koch Brothers ally.)
Did you know that Mark Meadows is a man who talks with President Trump almost daily? At least that appears to have been true during the health care debates.
Meadows has been a fast riser to a position of influence. In 2013 he is credited with being the “architect” of the government shutdown. In 2015 he led the fight to remove John Boehner from the Speaker’s position. As head of the Freedom Caucus, he supervises a cadre of ultra-conservatives, whose strength is sufficient to block and thereby influence legislation.
Why? The GOP in the House operates under what is known as the Hastert Rule in which nothing reaches the floor without a majority of the majority supporting it, the Freedom Caucus has the ability to prevent votes on policies to which they object, but that a majority of the House (some members of the GOP and Democratic Party) support. It’s a great way to ensure gridlock and minority party suppression. In other words, Meadows’ group within the Republican caucus, a minority, trumps a coalition of moderate Republicans and Democrats, a majority.
Meadows, according to the author of this article, lives in Trump Country:
If you constructed a Trump district in a laboratory, the results
would likely mirror Meadow’s home in western North Carolina.
Tucked between the peaks of the Appalachian mountains, it’s rural
and overwhelmingly white. There’s a church at almost every
corner. “God’s country,” as Meadows calls it.
Ouch! Does that sound like Asheville? Or Highlands? The reporter observed our region at a Burnsville rally, which does have a few stereotypical Appalachian abandoned factory buildings. But it is also the site of the Parkway Playhouse and down the road in Madison County is Penland, which has an international reputation. The Southern Appalachians have a much more complicated history than the throw-away designation “Trump Country” suggests. Yes, there is truth to the assertion that this is a very Trump-friendly district, but the stereotype in the article suggests the limited views of outsiders unfamiliar with the southern highlands as much as it says something of Mr. Meadow’s district.
That, however, is not the point. Meadows, a very conservative guy, has a very large footprint in Washington DC right now. Does he use it to help his constituents, who would profit from, say, an extension of Medicaid? Nope. Does he use it t push someone else’s agenda, someone outside our district? Perhaps.
Some of Mark Meadows’ Positions
- anti-abortion, pro-life
- endorses granting “the pre-born” rights under the 14th amendment
- reduce regulation and lower taxes
- balanced budget amendment (in spite of voting to increase the debt periodically, if the increase meets other criteria)
- anti-stimulus (against saving the auto industry, against TARP)
- religious freedom defense for anti-gay rights positions (anti-gay marriage)
- supports school vouchers and maximized school choice
- deplores Common Core Curriculum
- supports abstinence-based sex education
- supports off-shore drilling
- implicitly supports fracking
- supports Keystone Pipeline
- supports free trade (also, however, supports some tariff protections)
- opposes a national gun registry
- opposes restrictions on gun purchases
- supports Affordable Care Act repeal
- opposes any reductions in defense spending
- supports restraining legal immigration
- opposes sanctuary movement (would defund states and cities)
Ratings by Interest Groups of Mark Meadows’ Votes
(the higher the percentage, the more Meadows is in agreement with the group)
83% EnerVest (a coalition of petroleum and gas companies)
70% John Birch Society
100% Americans for Prosperity
100% Heritage Action for America
33% National Farmers Union
5% Planned Parenthood