By Frank Gormlie / OB Rag
It appears that our own Rep. Duncan Hunter has pulled a “Trump-like” distraction in order to manipulate the press away from something else that was embarrassing. It’s a case of Animal House.
Donald Trump has become infamous for making tweets or taking efforts to manipulate the press that are often distractions to more questionable or controversial elements of his campaign and transition. For instance, his press conference on Wednesday, Jan. 11th – the first in 6 months – was a distraction to embarrassing and controversial statements by his cabinet nominees, whose hearings were being held at the very same day in Congress.
And now Hunter has pulled a rabbit out of his Trump hat.
On Friday, Jan. 6, Hunter pulled down an award-winning but controversial painting from a wall in a Capitol hallway. The painting depicts a street clash between police and protesters, most of whom are Black. The painting shows some police officers and protesters as animals.
Members of the Congressional Black Caucus rehung it a few days later. And now Congressional Republicans are huddling trying to decide what to do.
The painting – which has been up for 6 months – was the winner of a high school students annual art competition and is one of hundreds that line the hallway – a block-long tunnel used by visitors and members of Congress to travel between the House office buildings and the Capitol.
Despite mainstream media accounts that stated that cops were painted as pigs, actually three police officers are depicted; one has the head of a wart-hog – the one with the gun – and one has the head of a horse, while the third is without an animal head. One protester has the head of black panther. Also in the painting, people hold signs that read “History,” “Justice Now” and “Racism Kills.” Reportedly, a conservative website recently made a stink about it.
Hunter’s chief of staff, Joe Kasper, acknowledged that the whole thing was a stunt “to draw attention of people ….”
Of course, Kasper meant that it was a manipulation to get the media’s attention, and shine a spot light on the painting.
But we’re calling this a distraction to other, more uglier things. About Duncan Hunter himself. The painting manever wasn’t a tweet, but it was a true Trumpian distraction.
What else could Duncan Hunter be trying to distract everybody from?
Oh, could it be that he wants to avoid media attention to the fact that he is being investigated by the House Ethics Committee for spending campaign contributions on things and trips that appear to be personal in nature?
Between 2015 and 2016, Hunter spent nearly $49,000 worth of campaign contributions on groceries, on outdoor equipment stores, video games, a dentist, nail salon, a utility company, for a hotel in Italy and another at the Arizona Grand Resort, his children’s private school tuition and travel to Hawaii. Plus, $600 on transporting the family’s pet rabbit. Supposedly, Hunter has paid it all back (except for the rabbit?).
Spending campaign funds for personal purposes or benefits is a violation of Federal law, in order to protect against corrupting influences by donors. Hunter’s primary contributors are defense contractors and others with interests before committees on which he serves.
On Aug. 31, 2016, the Office of Congressional Ethics filed a complaint against Hunter with the Ethics panel, urging an investigation. Since then, the committee has been weighing whether to open an official probe.
And now the investigating panel said in a statement it had “decided to extend the matter,” signaling that lawmakers want more time to make that decision. Politico
A Washington D.C.-based nonprofit, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), had filed the complaint with the office in April 2016, pressing for an investigation into Hunter’s possible use of campaign money for personal benefit.
Jordan Libowitz, a spokesman for CREW said the announcement was encouraging.
“We’re glad to see that they’re continuing to investigate him. There are a lot of very serious issues that we alleged in our complaints and the fact that they did not dismiss and are taking more time can always be seen as a good sign.”
Libowitz believes the office “found substantial reason to believe that Hunter violated the law.”
Naturally, Hunter’s office was more dismissive of the announcement of an extension of the investigation. “This is all standard process for OCE referrals,” Joe Kasper, Hunter’s chief of staff, told the Union-Tribune.
So what do you think? Is the Capitol caper over the painting simply a distraction?
Meanwhile, House Republicans are working overtime trying to have the painting removed through official channels.
Rep. William Lacy Clay (D-Mo.) who along with members of the Congressional Black Caucus and other members rehung the painting had this to say:
“I do not agree or disagree with the painting, but I will fight to protect this young man’s right to express himself.”
Clay’s district includes Ferguson, Mo., the city of the first major Black Lives Matter movement due to a police shooting of an unarmed Black man. Clay also said he tried to seek theft charges against Hunter for removing the painting, but the Capitol Police weren’t sure about proceeding. He said he’s asked for an apology. Kasper dismissed threats of theft charges as “grandstanding.”
Okay, so Hunter used the painting, calling it sensationalist, to pull the public and press away from the investigation into his campaign finances shenanigans.
The painting itself? Ever heard of the First Amendment, Mr. Hunter? Besides, depicting people as animals in art and literature goes way back, and all we have to cite is Orwell’s Animal House, where the pigs take over with their motto: “Some animals are more equal than others.”