Where are we at with professional ethics in Washington?
Well, if it appears that the Office of Congressional Ethics is derelict, incompetent, or maybe even complicit in cover-ups of wrongdoing by members of Congress, it could be because the man in charge of the office is ethically compromised.
The man in charge of the Office of Congressional Ethics, Omar Ashmawy, is the subject of a federal lawsuit accusing him of sexual harassment and assault according to an exclusive report from Foreign Policy.
In the federal lawsuit, one of the men involved in a fight with Ashmawy at a bar in Pennsylvania says Ashmawy threatened to use his office against him and that he sexually harassed their bartender throughout the night.
What exactly led to the physical altercation is in dispute, but in police statements reviewed by FP, three women at the bar that night, including the bartender, accuse Ashmawy of harassing and physically assaulting them. [...]
According to the complaint, Martucci on the night of Feb. 14, 2015, witnessed “an extremely violent and belligerent” Ashmawy become verbally abusive toward two women at Milford’s Dimmick Inn, Dawn Jorgenson — the wife of John Jorgenson, the owner of the bar — and Joey Lynn Smith, a bartender there.
Martucci also said he saw Ashmawy physically assaulting Dawn Jorgenson and Christina Floyd, another woman at the bar, a claim echoed in police statements given by the women and reviewed by FP.
According to a three-page statement dated March 12, 2015, Dawn Jorgenson said she witnessed Ashmawy “clearly sexually harassing” the bartender throughout the course of the evening and saw his behavior spiral toward physical violence. “You’ll give me drinks, but you won’t fuck me,” Ashmawy allegedly said to the bartender, according to Dawn Jorgenson’s written statement.
Ashmawy is also accused of using his office to pressure local law enforcement to arrest the men he fought with. Ashmawy warned local authorities that failing to arrest them could "attract high-level attention" in Washington, according to an email included in the lawsuit.
This is the man who is ostensibly responsible for reviewing accusations of sexual harassment (among other things) against members of Congress. The Office of Congressional Ethics cleared Rep. Blake Farenthold of accusations of sexual harassment, but we later learned that the Office of Compliance paid one of Farenthold's accusers to settle out of court. Farenthold just announced that he won't seek reelection.
Ashmawy's office has also cleared other members of Congress for various kinds of wrongdoing and one has to wonder how thorough or honest any of those investigations were.
Republicans have treated the Ethics Committee and the Office of Congressional Ethics like a partisan political sideshow ever since they took control of the House of Representatives in 2011. And if it appears that we treat ethics like a joke in Washington, that's why. It is a joke. An honest Ethics Committee would have investigated their own members for using taxpayer money for the explicit purpose of undermining the credibility of former secretary of state and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.