Republicans are doing their best to drag the entire Democratic party under the ethical cloud hanging over Reps. Charlie Rangel (D-NY) and Maxine Waters (D-CA). That strategy makes many vulnerable House members wish the two would step aside or admit wrongdoing so the controversy would die. But Democrats are hoping that a bit of political jiujitsu can flip this attack on its head: they would like to show that Democrats are dealing with their ethically compromised members publicly, and officially while the GOP protects its own and keeps its sins private.
A top Democratic strategist tells TPMDC that Democrats plan to seize on two stories from the past year, suggesting that Republicans aren’t free of their own ethical problems, but that they just deal with them behind closed doors.
“If John Boehner wants to take a holier-than-thou stance on ethics and brag that he’s the most transparent person in this town, then he needs to step forward immediately and let the American people know which of his members he’s secretly met with to discuss their ethics problems,” the strategist said.
The first story dates back to an appearance the Minority Leader made on MSNBC in March, where he noted “[W]hen I took over as Leader of some two-plus years ago, I made it clear to my colleagues that I was not going to stand by and allow these types of things to happen. And I have had to bring my members in from time to time and have had serious conversations with them. So it’s part of what I’ve been trying to do to hold my members to a higher standard.”
At a later press conference, Boehner declined to name which members he’d reprimanded, only to say he’d told them “we can do this the easy way, or we can do this the hard way.”
The second, more recent story, involves Boehner’s private conversations with male Republican members who have reportedly become a bit too cozy with female lobbyists.
With House members back in their districts, it may be harder for Democrats to pin Republican leaders down. But with Democrats calling members back to Washington for a vote on a jobs bill, anything’s possible.
Brian Beutler is TPM's senior congressional reporter. Since 2009, he's led coverage of health care reform, Wall Street reform, taxes, the GOP budget, the government shutdown fight, and the debt limit fight. He can be reached at email@example.com.