Staff Editorial

Rod Blum ethics probe is no conspiracy

U.S. Rep. Rod Blum speaks at Northeast Iowa Community College Town Clock Business Center in Dubuque on Monday, July 9, 2018. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
U.S. Rep. Rod Blum speaks at Northeast Iowa Community College Town Clock Business Center in Dubuque on Monday, July 9, 2018. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

The House Ethics Committee has decided to take a look at Republican U.S. Rep. Rod Blum’s failure to properly disclose his role in a business venture known as Tin Moon. In the wake of last week’s announcement, the congressman is lashing out, blaming Democrats and the media for orchestrating what he calls a political “assassination attempt.”

But to us, it seems Blum’s problems are self-inflicted.

He failed to disclose his ownership role in Tin Moon, a Dubuque company promising to help businesses bury derogatory information in online searches, including government regulatory problems. It’s not exactly the sort of public service a congressman usually provides.

Blum’s congressional portrait appeared, and then disappeared, from the company’s website. One of Blum’s staffers appeared in a fake ad as a satisfied client extolling Tin Moon’s work. All of this was first reported by the Associated Press’ Ryan Foley.

Foley and other journalists have drawn Blum’s ire on social media for simply seeking answers to questions about Tin Moon and other matters. It’s clear the congressman is ripping a page from the president’s media-bashing playbook to fire up his political base as he faces a tough bid for re-election.

But no Democrats or reporters prompted Blum to make these missteps. What Blum is calling a “crusade of personal destruction” is actually an inquiry by the nonpartisan ethics committee operating within a Congress controlled by Republicans. That’s the committee’s job. The fact it’s now looking into Blum’s case does not necessarily mean he did anything wrong, and a report is expected in December.

Part of Blum’s job is facing public scrutiny for his actions as a public servant. On that score, we’ve seen a troubling pattern. Blum has, over the past 16 months, avoided open public events and town halls where he would face questions from constituents. He’s publicly rebuked journalists asking fair questions. Now, he paints an ethics inquiry as a partisan conspiracy.

Blum may or may not have an ethics issue. But it’s clear he has an accountability problem. Dodging questions and assailing the messengers won’t make it go away.

• Comments: (3190 398-8262; editorial@thegazette.com

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