Republicans in the Arizona State House of Representatives are considering changing their ethics rules to make it more difficult to submit complaints. It’s hard to imagine a worse time for a change like this.
Over the past few years, multiple scandals have clouded the Arizona House of Representatives. The complaints have come from both inside and outside of the legislature. Currently, the rules allow anyone affected to submit complaints, which the House Ethics Committee can then investigate. After an investigation concludes, the committee can then recommend further action to the full House.
This is not an appropriate time for the House of Representatives to weaken the ethics rules. Keeping the complaint process open and accessible is crucial at a moment when multiple legislators have been exposed for their predatory behavior.
If a legislator does or says something inappropriate or harmful, the people impacted should be able to seek accountability. A code of conduct needs to be established, and the ethics violations process should be as transparent, fair and accessible as possible.
The timing of the proposed ethics rules changes does not reflect well on the House GOP. Members of the majority caucus are responsible for most of the behavior that has attracted headlines over the last few years: David Cook allegedly having a relationship with a lobbyist that raises serious questions about conflicts of interest, David Stringer attempting to suppress his predatory past, and Don Shooter harassing fellow legislators and lobbyists.
These are all instances in which legislators took advantage of the power imbalance between them and their victims to unjustly pressure their victims into giving them what they wanted: Shooter leveled his power as chairman of the Appropriations Committee, Stringer took advantage of the age gap as he preyed on children, and Cook’s relationship was with a woman directly affected by the committees he sits on.
Legislators should be held to the same standard as everyone else, and as the direct representatives of the people, should likely hold themselves even higher. If Republicans don’t want scandals, don’t have your party bring in bad candidates with bad records.
The House Ethics Committee needs to have a clear code of conduct and an accessible and fair way to file complaints. At the end of the day, legislators are public servants, and the public should have a way to hold them accountable.