When the Eric Massa scandal broke, some assured us that this was nothing like the Mark Foley scandal of 2006. After all, Foley’s were underage male victims. Massa preyed only on adult employees. (Not a great ad campaign, but a distinction nevertheless.) And besides, there was no complicity on behalf of the Democratic leadership or failure to investigate Massa, unlike what the Democrats claimed had been the case with the Republican leadership in 2006. So no problem, right? Uh … no. Politico reports:
The House ethics committee closed its investigation into sexual harassment allegations against former Rep. Eric Massa on Wednesday afternoon — even as an aide to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi acknowledged for the first time that her office learned of concerns about Massa far earlier than previously known.
Sources familiar with the situation told POLITICO that the bipartisan committee decided to close its investigation into the case because Massa’s resignation — effective at 5 p.m. Monday — deprived the committee of jurisdiction over him.
But House Republicans cried foul, with one senior GOP aide saying that the new information about Pelosi’s office “further underscores” the need to find out what actually happened.
Pelosi is said not to know about the specific wrongdoing but merely “that Massa was living with several aides, had hired too many staff members and used foul language around his staff. Racalto [Massa’s chief of staff], also raised concerns about ‘the way Massa ran his office’ and informed Pelosi’s member-services staffer that he had asked Massa to move out of the group house on Capitol Hill, the Pelosi aide said.” And all this follows the revelation that Massa had a history of groping and harassment in the Navy. Switch the names and the parties, and this could be straight out of 2006 when the Republicans were under fire:
“This is completely unacceptable,” a senior GOP aide said of the committee’s decision to end its investigation. “If it’s true that Democratic members of the House ethics committee are blocking an investigation of what their own leaders knew about Massa, it proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that Speaker Pelosi has no intention of keeping her promise to lead the most open, honest and ethical Congress in history. What are Democrats on the ethics committee afraid of? What is the Democratic leadership hiding?”
Granted, the Democrats have time to correct the problem. They could, if they are inclined to, conduct a serious investigation into who knew what and when. But the presence of a growing, nasty ethics scandal and the judgment of the House speaker at a time when the Democrats are struggling with ObamaCare smacks of the perfect storm — the convergence of bad news and awful media that has the potential to sink the majority party. And should the Democrats sweep this under the rug — for Massa is now departed — the stench will linger for months.
Arguably, 2010 isn’t like 2006 or 1994. This time there is ObamaCare, Massa, Charlie Rangel, the spigot of red ink, and sky-high unemployment. So 2010 could well be worse for the party in power, which suddenly seems as though it can’t get anything right.