Demonstrating that government oversight of itself if usually a joke, the House “Ethics” Committee unanimously cleared state Representative Clel “The Hemorrhoid” Baudler (R-Greenfield) of any wrongdoing on Wednesday. Baudler was being investigated because he admittedly flew to California and fraudulently obtained a prescription for medical marijuana in that state by lying about suffering from hemorrhoids and depression. California authorities declined to prosecute Baudler, who didn’t take possession of the marijuana.
Iowan Mike Pesce, who filed the ethics complaint against The Hemorrhoid, pointed out in an early February Des Moines Register article that “the state constitution denotes grounds for impeachment as the commission of any misdemeanor or malfeasance and what Baudler did violated the law of another state.” And it certainly was malfeasance, which Dictionary.com defines as “the performance by a public official of an act that is legally unjustified, harmful, or contrary to law; wrongdoing (used especially of an act in violation of a public trust).”
State Rep. Scott Raecker (R-Urbandale), Vice Chair of the House “Ethics” Committee, explained to the Register why The Hemorrhoid’s malfeasance didn’t warrant so much as a finger-wagging from the group, before he rejoined the committee in hitting paddleballs. “The committee’s jurisdiction is limited, [Raecker] said. They can only ascertain whether there was a violation of [Iowa Code section 68b or House ethics], and neither addresses a lawmaker who allegedly broke a law in another state or told a lie, he said.” So, the House “Ethics” Committee doesn’t have jurisdiction over stuff like, oh, ethics.
We should not be surprised when government is less than ethical. We should be surprised whenever it is ethical. The legislative “ethics” police aren’t going to want to set any precedent that may be used against themselves later down the road. Also, when you think about it, ethics is anathema to government in general. Politicians are elected by winning popularity contests where they must lie more convincingly than their opponents. If they win, they get to help run the government which is itself nothing more than legalized theft and coercion. No wonder Americans from Mark Twain on have cursed crooked politicians and ethics can never seem to take root.
That age old cycle continues. Having learned nothing, according to a Radio Iowa report, Baudler says the next time he’s out west, “you won’t believe what I’ve got planned.” The House “Ethics” Committee slumbers at the ready for whatever it may be.