In this week's issue of the Boston Phoenix -- in print tomorrow, online now -- I have a small item about the newly elected GOP US House members blowing off this week's highly esteemed Harvard JFK School IOP Conference for newly elected US House members. Good enough for Boehner and Cantor when they were freshmen, but not this crop.
There is, actually, a possible factor -- aside from the right's fear of socialist brainwashing -- contributing to the low turnout. It has to do with avoiding ethics rules.
The Kennedy School runs its frosh-orientation conference (since 1972) before the swearing-in. A lot of competitors -- other academic institutions, as well as think tanks and partisan organizations -- have come along, most of them after the swearing-in. That makes it easier to hook members in, as long as you hold it in or near DC, since they're all gathered in one place. Harvard, of course, demands that you come to them, from wherever you are, because they're Harvard.
Well, this past Congressional term, the House passed these new ethics rules that make it a little dicey for Congressmen to attend these kinds of shindigs, which could, in a certain light, be seen as a private institution with legislative interests lavishing food, drink and hospitality on lawmakers while telling them how to do their job.
So, all those competing orientation programs were rescheduled this cycle, to take place (like Harvard's) before the swearing in -- because, before they officially take the oath, apparently they are free from ethical obligations.
Thus, all these competing programs are all scheduled in the window between the November elections and the January swearing-in -- and when you take out the holidays, you realize there's a lot of overlap, not to mention the danger of severe conference fatigue.
All of this was too much to explain in the short item, so I thought I'd mention it here. Now, go read the article: Republican congressional class drops out of Harvard