See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil

Having trouble keeping track of the latest Republican House members who have decided to call it quits? You aren’t alone.

Every week, it seems we hear of more Republicans deciding to throw in the towel for a variety of reasons.

With 435 seats, every election cycle brings some retirements of representatives in both parties, for a variety of reasons. But this year, more Republicans are calling it quits than usual. DailyKos has been tracking these announcements and comparing them to previous years.

Given the severely degraded condition of national politics since Donald Trump took office — the national dialogue, basic standards of conduct we expect from our leaders, citizens not knowing who to believe anymore, and the rush of Democrats jumping in to stand against this mess — it’s not surprising that an unusual number of House Republicans are saying, “Peace out.”

Their party is an increasingly damaged brand as they stand by a deplorable president whose ratings, accordingly, continue to tank.

One thing I’m sure they’ll be grateful not to have to do anymore is raise campaign money. It can be a real headache.

As someone who has managed many campaigns, I can tell you that most candidates really hate this part of the job. Sitting on the phone for hours, asking for donations and attending events after a jet-lagged 10-hour day just isn’t fun.

Fundraising is a headache in other ways, too. There are all kinds of rules about how much money you can accept, from what sorts of entities: businesses, people, PACs. Sure, some of the rules are really simple; you can’t take money from foreign nationals (green card-holders excepting).

That’s a no-brainer. If someone offers to host an event to raise money for your candidate, and you have even heard, third-hand, hints of vague rumors that they possibly, one time, 20 years ago, may have raised money from foreign nationals, that is what we in Campaign Manager Land call “An Event That is Never Going to Happen.” If it smells bad, or there’s a whiff of sketchiness, that’s enough to say, “No, thanks. Hard pass.”

The law is clear on the prohibition of contributions from foreign nationals. Additionally, it includes prohibitions from foreign governments, political parties and corporations (although this provision can get tricky when there are domestic subsidiaries of foreign companies). We don’t want foreign influence, including campaign contributions, in our elections. Not even five rubles.

So what happens when candidates, parties or PACS unknowingly take these kinds of prohibited funds and later find out that they were illegal? (It happens. Even when hosts are vetted by fundraising staff, and contributions are screened, it is possible for some to get through, especially if the donor is intentionally avoiding red flags.)

In these cases, campaigns either don’t deposit the money or are required to return it. Between filing amendments to federal campaign finance reports, bad press and possible fines, even the least patriotic of candidates don’t want to deal with contributions that violate this provision.

Of course, knowingly accepting money from prohibited sources like foreign nationals or, if that’s not bad enough, some whom could be involved in criminal enterprises —and there are receipts — that’s a whole ’nother kettle of fish.

Now, we are possibly looking at potential criminal prosecution. (OK, so maybe the money goes to, say, the national party instead of your candidate committee, but you still wind up benefiting from it. Well, you might not be off the hook, especially if you knew something about those receipts.)

Also, did I mention if you are an incumbent running to keep your house seat? Support from the national party is basically a fait accompli. How much and when, maybe you don’t know all the details; those will be decided later. But you know it’s coming. In some form. You’ll be accepting it. You don’t have much say in the matter. Plan on it.

The very idea of this kind of scenario might be enough to make an incumbent who has heard rumors or gossip (maybe even seen intelligence reports) that even hint of a possibility of this kind of thing — foreign nationals and dirty money — going on in fundraising for their party, to decide that they want no part of this for moral, ethical or legal reasons besides an extreme headache. And make plans for their retirement.

Last year, champion Starburst-sorter, House Majority Leader and Trump’s “My Kevin” McCarthy was caught on tape saying in a private meeting with GOP leaders: “There’s two people I think Putin pays: Rohrabacher and Trump. Swear to God.” (The Washington Post reported it.) Remember that?

House Speaker Paul Ryan basically ordered McCarthy to “Can it now,” and for everyone present to basically forget that they ever heard those words uttered. McClintock and Ryan denied this ever happened when inquiries came from the Washington Post, until they were presented with a transcript.

When confronted with the receipts, they said they were just joking. I have some questions.

Did everyone present get the joke? Did hilarity ensue? Who found this funny? Who was disgusted enough to make it public?

Were some in attendance literally covering their eyes, plugging their ears and agreeing to silence?

Sirs and madams of the House GOP: What do you know already, and what are you doing about it?

Maureen Erwin is a Bay Area political consultant and advisor to the Flip The 14 campaign, which is focused on defeating California’s 14 Republicans in Congress.

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