How to Persuade the Unpersuadable

As head of the House Committee on Government Oversight and Reform, Representative Jason Chaffetz is the guy we need to push to investigate the many shenanigans of Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump. He is digging his heals in at the moment, refusing to do anything that would embarrass team GOP, but with the right pressure we might prevail.

The likelihood anyone reading this lives in Representative Jason Chaffetz’ Utah district is not high. But as a committee chair he should hear from all Americans, not just his constituents.

Marches all across the country this weekend show what we are good at: the public ruckus. Ruckusing has its role. It’s important to send a message that a great many Americans do not support this administration, and to take some press coverage off President Trump’s first moment in the inaugural spotlight.

But when it comes to lobbying Congress, we are, not to put too fine a gloss on it, pathetic. Persuasion is not our trump suit. But we have opportunities. GOP lawmakers on the Hill are nervous about Trump: the more savvy among them realize Trump is a ticking ethics time bomb. Chaffetz may not budge yet, but his Committee staff is taking the temperature of the electorate on Trump’s ethics. That’s where you come in, with your cards and letters and phone calls.

So, what makes a good letter to Chaffetz?

Jason Chaffetz was born Jewish and converted to Mormonism. He wears his morality and his religion on his sleeve with the zeal of a recent convert. So, address your letter in those terms; don’t disparage his religion, that will fail. Instead, hold him to his own moral standards, at least those he professes publicly. Chaffetz has a big ego, and he longs to be Speaker of the House. Work that into your missive as well.

Use terms Chaffetz will understand. Devout Mormons periodically address their congregations, giving brief, powerful talks on the role of the church in their life. This is referred to as their “Testimony.” Mormons will sometimes criticize other church members by criticizing their Testimony. Mormons, like other denominations that arose out of the Second Great Awakening, believe they possess the sole road to Paradise. The most evangelically infused Mormons sometimes derisively refer to other denominations as the “Great and Abominable Church,” a term referenced from the Book of Mormon. Finally, Mormons believe that families transcend death; your family is your family for eternity. The phrase they use, and that you’ll even see on bumper stickers in Utah or Nevada is “Families Are Forever.”

Chaffetz may well be facing a primary challenge next year, from Mormon attorney Damian W. Kidd, who is relentlessly hitting Chaffetz for supporting Trump.

A staffer reading your letter should take pause when they realize you understand Chaffetz’s religion. Donald Trump was pilloried by many Mormons during the campaign using the language of their faith. Applying the same terms to Chaffetz will hit home.

Before folks fire up hate comments, allow me to be clear. I have no beef with Mormonism. Many Mormons were true Christians in opposing Donald Trump. Former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D NV) is a Mormon of tremendous character and great moral fiber. My beef is not with religion, but with those who profess strong religious beliefs, all the while behaving reprehensibly in the public sphere.

Ergo, I offer a sample letter. Share it, and cut and paste at will to make it your own:

Dear Representative Chaffetz:

President Trump’s refusal to release his tax returns, his questionable business ethics and his shadowy connections to Russian financiers and to Vladimir Putin should give all honest Americans pause. I am writing to urge your committee to investigate both the nefarious role of Russia in November’s election and the potentially dangerous conflicts of interests in President Trump’s business empire.

As head of the Committee on Government Oversight and Reform, the American people rely on you to provide nonpartisan, moral oversight of our institutions. The GOP, and you personally, have taken a number of actions I find disturbing. The midnight attempt to eliminate the Independent Office of Government Ethics (IOGE) was unconscionable, and the American public were correct in slapping you and the GOP down. IOGE has provided ethics oversight when you and your colleagues have fallen short. In 2016, it discovered shadowy hedge fund activity on the part of Senate Candidate Alan Grayson (D-FL) and found Michelle Bachman (R-MN) exercised questionable judgment in allocating PAC funds in her 2012 White House bid. This is how ethics investigations should work—they should be fair, tough and bipartisan.

I am further alarmed by your crass attempt to pressure an IOGE Chairman Walter Shaub. Shaub should be applauded for speaking out against Trump’s moral impropriety, not pulled in front of your Committee in a closed door partisan witch hunt.

Conservatives used to believe in ethics. You are flushing ethics down a partisan toilet. I know you’d like to be Speaker of the House one day. Shirking your Committee responsibilities is not the path to power. History has its eyes on you. Should Trump’s ethics explode, as I expect they will in the coming months, history will view you as the simpering partisan coward who did nothing. Forget the Speaker’s gavel, Sir, and do the job American taxpayers provide you a hearty salary to perform: provide us with real ethics investigations. Make the GOP once again the party of Eisenhower, not the party of Nixon.

You often tout your personal religious credentials. Sadly, your actions are in direct contrast to your Church’s teachings. Indeed, you are defaming your very Testimony in a blind grab for power. You could learn a great deal about honest Testimony from Damian W. Kidd. Perhaps, Mr. Chaffetz, you see the Great and Abominable Church each morning in the mirror when you shave?

You have, sadly, become little more than another cynical partisan hack. The GOP has destroyed its Family Values legacy by electing a man who brags that he delights in “grabbing women by the pussy,” who spews racist epithets like a white hooded Klansman and whose business ethics would make Bernie Madoff blush. Shame on you and the GOP. Families may be forever, but the moral integrity of you and your colleagues is apparently fleeting. Your behavior is partisan and disgusting and you have left black marks on Congress, on your Church, and on your soul.

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