Brent Budowsky: Benghazi panel on trial

The House Ethics Committee should investigate the House Benghazi Committee to determine whether the rules of the House are violated by the misuse of public funds to pursue a partisan vendetta against one person: former Secretary of State and candidate for president Hillary Clinton.

In October 2012 I wrote a piece for The Hill titled “Issa Targets Hillary: Big mistake.” Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), then the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, had convened hearings shortly before the 2012 election to exploit the tragedy at Benghazi in a partisan attempt to use his panel to defeat the reelection campaign of President Obama.

{mosads}Also in October 2012 the late Beau Biden, then attorney general of Delaware and a great man who is sorely missed, appeared on ABC’s “This Week.” In that appearance, he criticized partisan attacks by Republicans over Benghazi and Republicans who supported a budget plan offered by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), the GOP’s vice presidential nominee, that would have cut embassy security spending by $200 million to $300 million.

My October 2012 piece in The Hill condemned the abuse of power of the partisan vendetta against Clinton then led by Issa and his committee and was discussed in the Clinton emails that were later released. My message to the House Ethics Committee now, in calling for an investigation of the House Benghazi Committee, begins here. 

The Republican misuse of congressional committees to pursue a partisan witch-hunt against Hillary Clinton, which failed to influence the 2012 presidential election and now attempts to influence the 2016 presidential election, continued throughout 2012, 2013, 2014 and now throughout 2015.

The abuse of power and possible violation of House rules by using taxpayer money to misuse a congressional committee to achieve partisan purposes continues today with Clinton’s testimony before the Benghazi Committee. It will continue throughout the 2016 campaign unless the Ethics Committee upholds the rules of the House and the integrity of Congress.

It was scandalous to read in The Washington Post that Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), chairman of the House Benghazi Committee who also serves on the House Ethics Committee, at one point accepted campaign donations from a source linked to an anti-Clinton political action committee that attacked the former secretary of State over Benghazi while his committee attacked her over Benghazi.

According to RealClearPolitics, more than 78 percent of Americans disapprove of Congress. This epic level of public revulsion — nearly four in five of all Americans — has only worsened as Republicans have misused legislative committees to wage partisan war against Clinton throughout 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015.

For congressional ethics to have any meaning, the House Ethics Committee should make a clear and powerful statement that this violates the rules of the House, compromises the integrity of Congress and constitutes an abuse of taxpayer trust for public money to finance legislative committees to wage partisan vendettas against one political opponent in a presidential election.

It would be scandalous for the Ethics Committee not to investigate the Benghazi Committee after the House majority leader, Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), publicly bragged that it was a major success of the GOP Congress that the Benghazi Committee lowered Clinton’s poll ratings, followed by a second Republican member and then a GOP committee investigator joining Democrats in raising ethics questions about the committee.

If the House Benghazi Committee had been making legitimate efforts for legislative and policy purposes, it would have convened a panel long ago that included the secretary of State, the secretary of Defense and the CIA director at the time of the terrorist attack — testifying together — to thoughtfully consider how to prevent such tragedy from happening again.

The House Ethics Committee should now consider whether the House Benghazi Committee, which is losing its trial in the high court of public opinion, has violated the rules of the House to persecute one candidate to influence another presidential election.

Budowsky was an aide to former Sens. Lloyd Bentsen and Bill Alexander, then chief deputy majority whip of the House. He holds an LL.M. degree in international financial law from the London School of Economics. He can be read on The Hill’s Contributors blog and reached at

Tags Benghazi Hillary Clinton Trey Gowdy

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