Tipton won’t reveal vote on ethics bill
U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton won’t say exactly how he voted in a behind-closed-doors meeting Monday of House Republicans on a proposal to gut the Office of Congressional Ethics, but his office says he does support having such an office.
The proposal was part of a rules package for the 115th Congress, which convened on Tuesday.
It included an amendment presented by U.S. Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., to put the independent office under the House Ethics Committee, which is controlled by lawmakers. Republicans voted late Monday 119-74 to gut the office despite opposition from their party leaders, including House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.
The office was created in 2008 when Democrats controlled the 435-member House after a series of scandals that resulted in jail time for some members.
Under fire from Democrats and Republican President-elect Donald Trump on Tuesday, a day after that vote of the GOP caucus, which was not open to the public, House Republicans voted again to withdraw the amendment.
Using the hashtag DTS (Drain The Swamp), Trump criticized the vote in a two-part Twitter message:
“With all that Congress has to work on, do they really have to make the weakening of the Independent Ethics Watchdog, as unfair as it ... may be, their number one act and priority. Focus on tax reform, healthcare and so many other things of far greater importance!”
While who voted for the original amendment isn’t known, some online publications have piecemealed from various sources how some GOP House members voted. According to the liberal online publication Talking Points Memo, Tipton and the three other Republican congressmen from Colorado — Mike Coffman, Ken Buck and Doug Lamborn — all voted against the proposal.
“As a representative of the people, members of Congress are held to the highest of standards,” Coffman said in a statement. “I strongly oppose any unilateral changes to the Office of Congressional Ethics, and instead support a bipartisan independent system to assure fair and effective oversight and transparency in Congress.”
In an email, Tipton’s communications director Liz Payne said it’s not the congressman’s “philosophy” to reveal votes or discussions that occur during “internal member meetings.”
After being pressed, however, she said the congressman supports “an” ethics office.
“The congressman supports an independent, bipartisan system of oversight that preserves the due process rights of all members of Congress should they be accused of an ethical violation,” Payne wrote.
Tipton has never come before the ethics office nor the House Ethics Committee.
In 2011, however, he did apologize to the committee for his daughter’s use of his name in letters to congressional members in an effort to drum up business for her employer, a telephone services company owned by Tipton’s nephew, Steve Patterson.
Tipton wrote a letter apologizing for his then 22-year-old daughter, Elizabeth Tipton, saying it won’t happen again. Under House rules, members of Congress are barred from benefiting from a commercial enterprise.
Before Republicans reversed their vote on the ethics office amendment, they received numerous messages criticizing the rule change, and Tipton was no exception.
While some urged the congressman to vote against the measure, others attacked it just for being up for consideration.
“I am watching you today. We are a purple state. You will lose your seat if you don’t believe in ethics,” one tweet said.
“Are you listening?” another tweet said. “Gutting of OCE is not draining the swamp! We will NOT be silent.”