- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 16, 2019

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Top Republicans on the House Oversight Committee want to know what the Metro board knew about the ethics investigation into former Chairman Jack Evans, when did they know it, and how did they learn it.

GOP Reps. Jim Jordan of Ohio and Mark Meadows of North Carolina requested the info in letter Tuesday addressed to the chairman of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, Paul Smedberg, and they cc’d the request to committee Chairman Elijah Cummings, Maryland Democrat, and Northern Virginia Democratic Rep. Gerry Connolly.

The GOP congressmen rightly requested “all documents and communications referring or relating to the investigation into Evans’ conduct,” including interview transcripts summaries and “underlying evidence” on what Metro’s probe of its ex-leader actually found.

The congressman also state that they probing whether Metro’s own ethics panel attempted to “whitewash” the Evans affair.



Mr. Evans, a lawmaker, a lawyer and the target of a probe that lined his own pockets in a pay-to-play scheme, may well have suspected such a congressional grilling was in the works. After all, FBI agents hit the threshold of his Georgetown home about 6 a.m. June 21, for what wasn’t exactly a social call.

At this stage, it’s important to consider what else is at stake besides the likely downfall of Mr. Evans, a member of the D.C. Council since 1991 and, until a few days ago, the chairman of the council’s Finance and Revenue Committee.

The politics are familiar. Democrats run the show. Mr. Cummings of Maryland is the liberal chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, and Mr. Connolly is his right-hand man, smugly seated to his left as chairman of the committee’s Government Operations subcommittee.

When it comes to Metro and other transportation subsidies, both Democrats can be counted on as supporters before taxpayers are even engaged on the particulars of a project.

Indeed, the Byzantine structure of Metro’s management and financing reveal part of the problem. Metro has four sets of overseers: federal appointees from Virginia, Maryland and the District, along with Congress. The appointees propose; Congress, save for a few locally invested members, typically doesn’t pay much attention.

It is the job of Congress to conduct stringent oversight of Metro, and not just react to what has already happened. What usually happens is that lawmakers are moved to action only after an inconvenient Metrobus or Metrorail misfire, putting public safety at risk. That’s not the depth of oversight that the region’s transit system clearly needs.

What Congress needs to do is carry out tough oversight and reform — and this latest letter from Mr. Jordan and Mr. Meadows opens the door. If Mr. Cummings, Mr. Connolly and their fellow Democrats can only find their way toward such a congressional inquiry through an anti-Trump lens, so be it. After all, their oversight job of Metro doesn’t merely affect residents of the D.C. region; they are theoretically protecting the wallets and hard-earned wealth of taxpaying Americans everywhere.

The Jordan-Meadows letter set a July 30 deadline for action on producing the requested documents.

Now that the Republicans have handed the House a magnifying glass to inspect the Evans scandal, Democrats should endorse their lead by jointly preparing for a good, hard public look in the fall.

Surely Mr. Cummings understands that, for now, Metro oversight and reform far outweigh D.C. statehood.

Deborah Simmons can be contacted at [email protected]

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