Just before Labor Day weekend, the House Committee on Ethics announced that they would be extending an official investigation into allegations Congressman Mike Honda abused his office, spending taxpayer dollars on his re-election effort and granting special service and access to his biggest campaign contributors.
Lest anyone think these allegations are just politics as usual, this ethics investigation was prompted by the unanimous recommendation of the bi-partisan Office of Congressional Ethics (“OCE”). Three Republicans and three of Honda’s fellow Democrats, after their own deep investigation, found that there was ““substantial reason to believe” that Congressman Honda violated the law, House rules and standards of conduct.
What we’ve learned from the OCE’s investigation is that taxpayers subsidized Congressman Honda’s re-election campaign. He used official Congressional resources to build campaign events, solicit campaign donations, comingle identifying information in official and campaign databases and have taxpayer-paid staff research his potential opponent. He created an office culture where official staff understood they were expected to ‘volunteer’ for the campaign or lose their jobs.
Perhaps most damning of the allegations against Congressman Mike Honda, constituent services to biggest donors were leveraged for campaign donations. Meanwhile, regular constituents with real problems, like Larry Sacks of Santa Clara, were ignored.
Larry’s father, a World War II veteran, spent three months at two local VA facilities during which time he repeatedly received substandard care from medical staff. After a social worker threatened to release his father onto the streets, Larry turned to Congressman Honda’s office for help.The Congressman’s deputy district director made promises on at least four separate occasions to provide answers about his father’s care. But nothing was done. When Larry followed up, the deputy district director stopped responding to his emails and phone messages and finally just ignored him completely. As Larry said, “Their promises have never been answered, nor have they even acknowledged that we ever existed or mattered to them.”
After the three months Larry’s father passed away.
What’s clear is that while he was busy trying to keep his job, Congressman Honda failed to do his job. At the same time that his official staff focused on his re-election campaign, there was a corresponding drop in the number of official events Honda’s office put on. He hosted one town hall meeting and rarely gave constituents the ability to air their views on pending legislation. The revelations of the ethics investigation to date are disturbing and paint a picture of Congressman swallowed by the culture of Washington and deeply out of touch with his constituents.
We can do better. It’s time for Congressman Honda to leave Congress. He has lost his way. He thinks the rules do not apply to him, and he attacks those who call him to task for his violations of them. We don’t have to continuously lower our ever-devolving expectations from our public servants. Honda himself admitted to the OCE investigators, “It’s open to a lot of interpretation, but it doesn’t look good.”
He’s right. It looks terrible.