Email #58, Subject: ethics violation in your own office?

I have already written to you about my concerns over the Muslim ban. I’ve also written about your lack of oversight over your own staffers who helped the White House draft the executive order imposing it. Now I’ve found out that those staffers may have violated House ethics rules by working for the White House while taking a paycheck from you.

You have been asked whether those staffers signed non-disclosure agreements with the White House. To be honest, it’s not clear to me whether non-disclosures matter in this case, or whether the President can really be considered a “client” beyond the House and so someone House staffers are prohibited from consulting with. That’s why I’m confused by your repeated failure to answer what seems to be a straightforward question. Either your staffers signed such agreements with the White House or they didn’t. If they did, it’s still an open question whether that constitutes a conflict of interest or any other kind of ethics violation. But your avoiding and obscuring the fact doesn’t help. It creates the appearance of a cover-up or, arguably worse, that you don’t know and don’t have sufficient control of your own staffers to find out.

It is of course ironic that ethics complaints are being leveled at you and your staffers given your failed attempt last month to turn the Ethics Office into a Republican-controlled, behind-closed-doors system. You would look much better right now if you had a record of championing open, bipartisan approaches to ethics and governance in general. Instead, these new allegations add to the impression that you and your office required severe ethical supervision. To counter that, you should disclose everything and encourage a broad and thorough investigation. Anything less makes you look worse than you already do.

Chris Gavaler

Author: Chris Gavaler

Chris Gavaler is an associate professor at W&L University, comics editor of Shenandoah, and series editor of Bloomsbury Critical Guides in Comics Studies. He has published two novels: School for Tricksters (SMU 2011) and Pretend I’m Not Here (HarperCollins 2002); and six books of scholarship: On the Origin of Superheroes (Iowa 2015), Superhero Comics (Bloomsbury 2017), Superhero Thought Experiments (with Nathaniel Goldberg, Iowa 2019), Revising Fiction, Fact, and Faith (with Nathaniel Goldberg, Routledge 2020), Creating Comics (with Leigh Ann Beavers, Bloomsbury 2021), and The Comics Form (Bloomsbury forthcoming). His visual work appears in Ilanot Review, North American Review, Aquifer, and other journals.

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