Does Jason Chaffetz Need to Investigate Himself?

Jason Chaffetz is the new chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. One of his roles is to clean up government. He may need to start with his own office. Until a few months ago, Mike Jerman worked as Jason Chaffetz’s Legislative Director. For a long time Jerman has been working hard on remote sales tax collection legislation. Chaffetz himself explained in meetings with eMainStreet members that Jerman was the driving force in his office behind the Remote Transaction Parity Act (RTPA), a modified version of the Market Place Fairness Act, which Chaffetz has announced that he will introduce on Monday. Documentation shows that last year Jerman was working assiduously to marshall support for the RTPA. Chaffetz told several of our members that Internet Sales Tax legislation has long been Jerman’s “baby” and that Jerman was a passionate, personal proponent for the legislation.

The RTPA requires retailers to use government-mandated software for sales tax collection purposes if they want to receive certain protections - protections that all of them need, ensuring a mountain of business for the companies that make the software. In fact, the software can only be provided by a small number of authorized companies that the legislation refers to as Certified Software Providers. As early as last year Jerman addressed the governing board of the organization that chooses these software providers.

The Certified Software Providers have announced that the legislation's mandates could require millions of small businesses to use their software and generate billions in financial windfalls for them, all at the stroke of a pen.

Putting regulatory burdens on small business - and creating industries from these regulations - is, unfortunately, something that Congress regularly does.

But that’s not the end of the story. It’s what is happening now that is raising eyebrows.

Almost exactly coinciding with the timing when Representative Chaffetz announced that the RTPA was ready to be introduced, Jerman left Chaffetz’s staff and joined a company that is pursuing Certified Software Provider status from the same organization Jerman previously addressed - immediately putting himself and his company in line to reap a fortune if the law were to pass.

This is an egregious example of the revolving door, crony capitalist, insider dealing that disgusts rank-and-file Americans. It is exactly the type of behavior that the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee should be working to stop. Chaffetz’s newly departed legislative director positioned himself for private enrichment while Chaffetz enables it, and all the while more burdens are heaped on small businesses.

The behavior Chaffetz has enabled is wrong. Those who have been put in charge of reforming government should take a stand against it, not participate in it.