So, we now have not merely a credible allegation of sexual harassment, but an evidenced one, this one by Sen. Al Franken (D-MN): KABC radio host Leanne Tweeden released a picture of Franken apparently attempting to grab her breasts while she slept while both were on a USO tour; she also accuses Franken of forcibly ramming his tongue into her mouth during a rehearsal for a skit on that tour. Franken has apologized – well, sort of – and said that he respects women.
Have Democrats reacted with the same kind of ardor and alacrity to the Franken accusations to which they reacted to the Roy Moore allegations of underage sexual abuse? To read the headlines, you might think so: many Democrats are calling for a Senate ethics investigation. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) stated, “Sexual harassment is never acceptable and must not be tolerated. I hope and expect that the Ethics Committee will fully investigate this troubling incident as they should with any credible allegation of sexual harassment.” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell also called for an ethics probe, as did Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), among others.
Wow, you might say. Those Democrats – they sure take sexual harassment allegations seriously, unlike those mean, nasty Republicans!
Here’s what you need to know about ethics investigations: they never go anywhere. Don’t believe me? Between 2007 and 2016, the Senate Ethics Committee imposed zero sanctions against anyone. Zero. Nada. Zip. Zilch. That despite 613 allegations, and 75 preliminary investigations. Here’s the USA Today report:
The committee's activity reports indicate that in nearly every case, allegations are dismissed because there are not enough facts to prove wrongdoing (13 of 55 cases last year) or there is no Senate rule governing the alleged activity (36 of 55 cases). In seven cases last year, the Ethics Committee carried out "preliminary inquiries;" five of those were dismissed as inadvertent or minor technical violations. None of those cases was made public by the committee.
The House Ethics Committee is far more active:
By comparison, from January 2013 through December 2014, the House Ethics Committee launched 53 investigations, created four subcommittees to probe specific matters and issued 19 "publicly disclosed resolutions" as well as 43 resolutions that were confidential, according to an activities report it issued a year ago.
So a Senate ethics investigation is where allegations go to die.
Which is why Franken himself has called for an ethics investigation . . . against himself. Yes, seriously. “I am asking that an ethics investigation be undertaken, and I will gladly cooperate,” Franken stated.
This is a far cry from Republican calls for Roy Moore to step away from his campaign, or their threats to refuse him a Senate seat altogether. This is a way for Democrats to kick the can down the road, to pretend that they’re standing foursquare against harassment while actually winking and nodding at their friends.