This is a preliminary investigation by the Office of Congressional Ethics, and it's done in the wake of a March lawsuit filed by Judicial Watch on behalf of former U.S. Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (also known as the Helsinki Commission) staffer Winsome Packer. The suit alleges sexual harassment, attempted extortion (for Hastings' re-election campaign), and acts of retaliation against Ms. Packer's attempts at whistle-blowing. According to the Judicial Watch suit (via Left Coast Rebel), informing then Commission Staff Director Fred Turner resulted in Turner's joining with Rep. Hastings in said acts of retaliation; according to the Huffington Post, Sen. Ben Cardin (D, MD) (co-chair of the Helsinki Commission, then and now) and the then-Democratic-controlled House Ethics committee were likewise allegedly informed and did nothing (a Cardin spokeswoman declined to comment). It should also be noted that Turner is currently the "Deputy Chief of Staff and Senior Advisor to the Co-Chairman at the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe" and one of Sen. Cardin's key people.
In a better world, I could have some hope that the ultimate conclusion would be in doubt, but here is a hard truth: no matter what the investigation discovers or the lawsuit concludes, Alcee Hastings will probably still be a Congressman afterward. This is for three interconnected reasons:
- Winsome Parker has the misfortune of being a Republican woman from Jamaica. This fairly thorough combination of adjectives means that Democratic female politicians like Senate Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and/or DNC Chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz will have precisely zero interest in either helping the race/gender traitor, or speaking out against Rep. Hastings; and that Democratic male politicians will be more interested in either emulating Hastings' alleged behavior, or else Turner's. All in all, Cardin's cowering in his office and sending out a spokeswoman to say nothing is the ultimate pinnacle of ethical behavior that Ms. Parker can expect from the Democratic party. So Hastings won't feel pressured by his colleagues to leave.
- Even if Ms. Parker had been a liberal Democrat female, Rep. Alcee Hastings is still a powerful Democrat; unlike the soon-to-be-ex-Rep. Antony Weiner, he has connections. Put it this way: he's still on the Rules Committee, which should tell you everything that you need to know about how powerful he is in Democratic circles. So Hastings won't feel the need to leave voluntarily.
- If the voters of Florida's 23rd Congressional District will forgive the fact that their Congressman was (back when he was a judge) impeached and convicted for bribery and perjury - and, judging from the fact that Hastings was elected to Congress in 1992 and has cruised to re-election in every election since, they do - then they'll probably forgive Hastings for allegedly using his position to sexually harass and threaten a woman. They'll probably even forgive Hastings if he's found guilty (and probably censured). So Hastings won't be fretting about getting thrown out of office.
The frustrating thing is how all three factors reinforce each other: Hastings won't feel pressure from either his colleagues or his constituents, and he's obviously dead to shame anyway. Congressional Democrats are constitutionally incapable of treating conservative/Republican minorities as people, and they're not worried about losing what is a ridiculously safe seat, so they're dead to shame. As for FL-23's voters... darned if I know why they keep electing the man. The unemployment rate for that district in 2009 was 16%; I doubt that it's improved much since then.
Still, pointing out this entire sorry example of yet another unethical, powerful elite politician going after a perceived victim is not a pointless exercise, if for no other reason that if you don't push back on this sort of thing, they just get worse. Besides, it never hurts to remind people that Democratic politicians lie. And, hey, you never know. Dollar Bill Jefferson* of New Orleans was untouchable, too...
Moe Lane (crosspost)
*...in his freezer.