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Doc, then and now

Not especially by way of suggesting that Doc Hastings is barely holding on to his House seat, but quick review of the central Washington congressman’s ethics world less than a month, as opposed to now, may be instructive.

Doc HastingsOn September 10 the Seattle Times ran a piece overviewing Hastings’ re-election bid this year. Of the state’s three Republican House members, he has the most favorable district, he has had the most time to become entrenched (the other two both were first elected in 2004) and has drawn the least-organized Democratic opposition (a fact related to the first two). What people reported liking most about him was his accessibility in district and his attention to local concerns and projects.

And of his role as chair of the House Ethics Committee? The Times noted how the New York Times has called the ethics panel under Hastings “a stunning still-life study in Capitol casuistry and partisan standoff”; newspapers have called Hastings personally “a leadership stooge” in referring to the committee’s quietude. One of the Democrats running against him said Hastings “has done all he can to protect ihs colleagues from indictments.”

And in Hastings’ district? The Times notes: “the reaction among voters in Eastern Washington seems to be a collective shrug.”

By all evidence, both within the article and from other sources, that conclusion seems about right – as of September 10. But would the Times be well advised to send a reporter back to central Washington for a post-Foley update?

Try Googling the words “Doc Hastings ethics” today and you will pull a seemingly endless list of news stories and more. The current Congress has been the most ethically bereft in decades, but most of that doesn’t hit home with people. The Mark Foley page scandal, bringing the matter of sex with minors into the picture, does. And of a sudden, the fact that the U.S. House has had no watchdog in place, and that the local congressman is the figurehead chair of the sham committee that hasn’t been doing the job, may be getting attention alongside the grant announcements and ribbon cuttings.

Hastings was asked to chair the panel by none other than House Speaker Dennis Hastert, the same man whose resignation was shouted for last week.

True, there’s no evidence yet that people in the district are rethinking Hastings in light of the Foley situation. But the circle of members of Congress caught up in this thing – most often, on grounds that they failed to act affirmatively as they should have – has been widening dramatically. We’ll be watching to see how Hastings may be caught up in it.

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