It was Rep. Jim Jordan’s second Presidents’ Day visit to the home of Warren G. Harding, but it was the first to be surrounded by protesters. Nearly 200 people had swarmed the building, their signs accusing the congressman of being a pawn of the Koch brothers who wanted to pollute Ohio’s streams and rip health insurance away from sick people. …
Jordan, a member of the Freedom Caucus who has not drawn a credible challenger since joining the House in 2006, was the latest Republican to face an irate and organized town hall audience. He took it in stride, fielding 40 minutes of questions from the porch where Marion’s favorite son waged his presidential campaign — a short, three-month campaign, a museum historian noted.
Democrats and anti-Trump Republicans despair that Jordan is in a perennially “safe” seat, a beneficiary of gerrymandering and voter complacency. In his current incarnation as a Trump cheerleader, Jordan has little concern about getting on the wrong side of right-leaning voters. He has thrown conservative principles to the wind and delights in Trump’s anti-free-market taxation, immigration and trade policies. Most egregiously, he is silent on Trump’s conflicts of interest and violations of the emoluments clause and breached lease with the General Services Administration. (Jordan has been more encouraging about an investigation of Trump campaign ties to Russia, though he wants to go after leakers who spilled the story that Michael Flynn had lied to others in the administration.)
Democrats and anti-Trump Republicans differ on many policy issues. However, they agree that Trump’s ethical dodging must end and that Trump must abide by the disclosure and divestment practices of his predecessors. They both believe voters have a right to know whether his foreign policy is designed to fatten his wallet.
So here’s the deal: In every congressional district and Senate race with an open seat, voters of both parties should insist that their lawmaker pledge to demand:
- Disclosure of Trump’s tax returns for the last 10 years; and
- An investigation of all foreign monies received, followed by enforcement of the emoluments clause (which precludes Trump receiving benefits such as a trademark from China)
Neither party should nominate any candidate who refuses to take the pledge; if both parties’ candidates do, the election can be fought on other issues. Any House or Senate candidate who doesn’t take the pledge, however, should not be elected. GOP primary challengers should all take the pledge and run on it.
That’s it. No amount of persuasion is likely to compel House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) to conduct a full-scale investigation. Chaffetz and his ilk are unimpressed by calls and letters and by voters at town halls. So be it. The voters will have to demand appropriate oversight of Trump’s ethics in the 2018 races.
If Republicans lose the House because they refuse to perform their obligations to undertake oversight and enforce the Constitution, they will have only themselves to blame. If they see the light and take the pledge, that’s a desirable outcome, and regardless of how the election turns out, voters can be assured the head-in-the-sand attitude toward Trump’s finances will cease.
Without regard to party in 2018, voters need to elect majorities in both chambers that have taken the pledge. That’s the first step in regaining transparency, accountability and democratic governance. The pledge may be the best mechanism — the only mechanism — for retaining a critical aspect of constitutional government, the obligation of officeholders to abide by the text of the Constitution and to take seriously their oaths to defend the country’s interests, not their own.