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Which Type of Mulch is Best for Your Garden?

Next time youre in nature, try looking at the ground. Its usually covered in old leaves, fallen branches, rocks and other debris. This layer is vital for soil health. It helps regulate moisture, provides nutrients, suppresses weeds, prevents erosion and supports resident microbes and insects.

You can recreate this effect by mulching any bare areas in your garden. Mulch is essentially anything that covers your soil. And its meant to stay on top of soil as a buffer, not to be dug in like compost or fertilizer. Organic types of mulch will break down and release nutrients over time, but keep them on the soil surface for the most benefit.

There are many different types of mulch you can use. Each one has its own advantages and disadvantages, depending on your site. These are some of the most common mulches available.

Wood Chips and Shredded Bark

Wood chips are primarily branches and wood fiber cut into small pieces. Whereas, shredded bark is only bark with no wood pulp. Both make excellent mulch in areas youd like to keep clean, such as under strawberries or other low-growing crops. You can also use them in pathways or around perennial plantings.

Wood chips retain water better and break down faster than shredded bark. This means that chips may be a better choice in areas like a vegetable garden where you want more moisture and nutrients. Bark may do better in long-term areas where you want better drainage, such as underneath shrubs.


Covering the soil with large rocks counts as mulch. Rock gardens may look dry, but the moisture stored under rocks helps sustain the surrounding plants.

Rocks will also capture heat from the sun and create warm microclimates around them, which can be very helpful in cooler regions. Rocks can also prevent erosion when used on a slope.

Yard Debris

Dont be too quick to clean up your yard. Lawn clippings can be left on the lawn to compost in place, or gathered and spread over your garden beds. You can do the same with any plant trimmings, especially leafy greens from vegetables or flowering plants. These can be left next to the plants to cover the soil and allow the nutrients to be recycled.

Fall leaves are a great opportunity to add extra organic matter to your beds. They also help keep the soil warm and safe over winter.

If you have your own compost pile, your finished compost can be used as mulch. Depending on how rich your compost is, you may want to spread a small amount throughout your garden and then cover it with a less nutritious mulch like dried leaves.

Gravel or Pebbles

These small stones are typically used for pathways or driveways. Unlike pavement or cement, they allow water to pass through to the soil underneath. Like larger rocks, gravel and pebbles will absorb heat during the day and release it at night.

Its best to contain gravel or pebbles within a frame or solid edging material. They often scatter into your garden beds or lawn if theyre left loose. This is annoying for bed maintenance, and can be a hazard if your lawnmower catches and throws loose gravel.

Wine Cork Mulch

Almost 13 billion wine corks are produced worldwide every year. Unfortunately, many of these end up in landfills. A much better use for corks is to repurpose them as mulch.

Wine corks are a natural material made from bark of the cork oat tree, native to the Mediterranean. Corks are dried and compressed to be water resistant, so they need to be broken into smaller pieces to make a good mulch. These are full instructions on how to make your own wine cork mulch.


Mulching is a great way to reuse newspaper. Newspaper blocks sunlight from reaching the soil, so its excellent for controlling weeds. These are some helpful tips on how to use newspaper mulch in your garden.

Newspapers that are only printed with black ink are safe to use. The black ink contains a carbon-based compound thats biodegradable. On the other hand, colored inks may contain harmful metals or other compounds, such as lead or sulfur. Not all inks are harmful, but its hard to know exactly whats in each one. Its best to avoid any colored flyers and inserts from your newspapers.


Straw is the dry stalks left-over from grain crops after the grains have been harvested. Not to be confused with hay, which is usually a mix of grasses, legumes and other plants that are grown to feed to animals. Hay includes all the seeds from these plants, which would create a huge weed problem if you used it as mulch.

Straw will have less seeds in it than hay, although some of the grain and other possible weed seeds will be present. Its good organic matter and will provide lots of carbon to your soil as it breaks down.

Although, avoid using straw if you have any rodents on your property. Rodents like mice, voles or rats love nesting in straw and will make homes in your mulch.

Landscape Fabrics

The most common landscape fabric is made from woven polypropylene, which is a type of plastic. Its typically laid directly on top of soil. The fact its woven allows water to go through the fabric while providing a solid barrier to prevent weed growth. You can cut individual holes in the fabric where you want to plant shrubs, trees or other plants.

Other mulches can be put on top of the fabric to make it look better, such as bark mulch or gravel. Although, weeds often take root in between the mulch and the fabric as the fabric breaks down over time. These weeds can be difficult to remove in older landscapes as they become entangled in the fabric.

Synthetic Lawns

Many mulches are good in garden beds, but what if you have an area you want to keep open for recreation or other uses? Thats where synthetic lawns work well. They dont require the water and maintenance of a real grass lawn, and they still provide the benefit of protecting your soil.

A synthetic or artificial lawn is made from different types of plastic materials to create a mat that looks and feels like real grass. It can be shaped to fit any area you need to fill.

Living Mulch

If you have a bare edge in your garden, try planting something low-growing to fill the space. Perennials like thyme, sedum, rock cress, snow in summer or candytuft can make excellent ground covers that will return every year. Annuals like alyssum, lobelia, begonia, bacopa or petunias will bloom all season as well as cover your soil.

10 Bee-Friendly Plants That are Easy to Grow
9 Beneficial Bugs & Insects to Welcome in the Garden
12 Ways to Get Rid of Aggressive Weeds Without Resorting to Roundup

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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Which Type of Mulch is Best for Your Garden?

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20 Houseplants That Clear Toxins From Your Home

Bringing a bit of nature into your home does more than brighten the atmosphere. Introducing houseplants into various rooms in the house can help reduce the chance of getting seasonal sicknesses (such as the common cold), remove airborne contaminants (volatile organic compounds, or VOCs), reduce the chance of headaches, lift your mood, decrease your blood pressure, reduce allergies, improve sleep and much more.

The 20 plants listed below are specifically known for their air purifying properties. And while an open window may feel like all the fresh air you need, did you know that everything from toilet paper to common household cleaners can contain chemicals and release toxins like formaldehyde? Or that VOCs like benzene can be released into the air by everything from the paint on your walls, to the printed material found in your home?

So why not breathe a bit easier and enjoy the beauty of a new houseplant at the same time! A warning for pet owners: some common plants can cause toxicity in pets. Please check this list of common poisonous plantsbefore bringing home a house plant.

(All plants listed will clear CO2 and may clear more VOCs than noted.)

Related: 7 Indoor Plants That Will Survive In the Darkest Rooms

1.Golden pothos

Golden Pothos(Scindapsus aures): clears formaldehyde and other VOCs.

2. Ficus alii

Ficus Alii (Ficus maeleilandii alii): Good general air purifier.

3. Spider Plant

Spider Plant (Chlorophytum comosum): Clears benzene, formaldehyde, carbon monoxide and xylene.

4. Lady Palm

Lady Palm (Rhapis Excelsa): Good general air purifier.

5. Snake plant

Snake Plant (Sansevieria trifasciata Laurentii): Clears formaldehyde.

6. Aloe Vera

Aloe: Clears formaldehyde and benzene.

7. Moth Orchid

Orchid (Phalaenopsis): Clears formaldehyde.

8. Dwarf/Pygmy Date Palm

Pygmy Date Palm (Phoenix roebelenii): Clears formaldehyde and xylene.

9. Chinese evergreen

(Aglaonema Crispum ‘Deborah’): Clears air pollutants and toxins.

10. Chrysanthemum

Chrysanthemums(Chrysantheium morifolium): Clears benzene.

11. Gerber daisy

(Gerbera jamesonii): Clears trichloroethylene and benzene.

12. Red-edged dracaena

(Dracaena marginata): Clears xylene, trichloroethylene and formaldehyde.

13. Weeping fig

Weeping Fig (Ficus benjamina): Clears formaldehyde, benzene and trichloroethylene

14. English ivy

(Hedera helix): Clears airborne fecal-matter particles.

15. Azalea

(Rhododendron simsii): Clears formaldehyde.

16. Heart leaf philodendron

(Philodendron oxycardium): Clears formaldehyde and many other air pollutants.

17. Warneck dracaena

(Dracaena deremensis ‘Warneckii’): Clears pollutants such as those associated with varnishes and oils.

18. Boston Fern

Boston Fern (Nephrolepis exaltata Bostoniensis): Clears formaldehyde. | Image credit: melissa b. via Flickr

19. Bamboo palm

(Chamaedorea sefritzii): Clears benzene, trichloroethylene and formaldehyde.

20. Peace lily

(Spathiphyllum): Clears formaldehyde, benzene, trichloroethylene, toluene and xylene.

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Science Daily
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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.


20 Houseplants That Clear Toxins From Your Home

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New York Times Updates Its 2015 Hillary Clinton FBI Investigation Story

Mother Jones

In July 2015 the New York Times reported that the Justice Department had opened a “criminal inquiry” into whether “Hillary Rodham Clinton mishandled sensitive government information.” This was apparently a mistake, and the article was quickly rewritten to say only that DOJ had opened an “investigation” into whether sensitive information had been mishandled “in connection with the personal email account Hillary Rodham Clinton used as secretary of state.” A few days later the Times’ public editor wrote a scathing summary of the paper’s scoop:

Aspects of it began to unravel soon after it first went online….From Thursday night to Sunday morning — when a final correction appeared in print — the inaccuracies and changes in the story were handled as they came along, with little explanation to readers, other than routine corrections….Eventually, a number of corrections were appended to the online story, before appearing in print in the usual way — in small notices on Page A2. But you can’t put stories like this back in the bottle — they ripple through the entire news system.

So it was, to put it mildly, a mess….“We got it wrong because our very good sources had it wrong,” editor Matt Purdy told me. “That’s an explanation, not an excuse. We have an obligation to get facts right and we work very hard to do that.”

A few days later I wrote about this too, suggesting that the Times owed us a better explanation of what happened. This weekend they went some of the way there in an aside buried in their big story about James Comey, co-authored by two of the same reporters who wrote the original piece. Here’s what they say:

On July 10, 2015, the F.B.I. opened a criminal investigation, code-named “Midyear,” into Mrs. Clinton’s handling of classified information….There was controversy almost immediately. Responding to questions from The Times, the Justice Department confirmed that it had received a criminal referral — the first step toward a criminal investigation — over Mrs. Clinton’s handling of classified information.

But the next morning, the department revised its statement. “The department has received a referral related to the potential compromise of classified information,” the new statement read. “It is not a criminal referral.”

At the F.B.I., this was a distinction without a difference: Despite what officials said in public, agents had been alerted to mishandled classified information and in response, records show, had opened a full criminal investigation.

If this is correct, it was a criminal investigation, and the Times didn’t get it wrong. Rather, the Justice Department put up a smoke screen after news of the investigation had been leaked.

The second part of this remains fuzzy. Was the investigation specifically aimed at Hillary Clinton or was it only “in connection with” Hillary Clinton? It’s pretty obvious that Clinton was, in fact, the primary target of the investigation, but the FBI also investigated many others in her orbit. So I’m not sure how to score this.

Overall, though, despite what I wrote and what the Times itself wrote, it appears that this wasn’t an enormous screwup at all. There might have been a minor detail or two that was slightly wrong, but nothing central to the story itself.

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New York Times Updates Its 2015 Hillary Clinton FBI Investigation Story

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Obamacare Is Doing Fine Unless Trump Kills It

Mother Jones

The Congressional Budget Office says that Obamacare is in good shape:

Under current law, most subsidized enrollees purchasing health insurance coverage in the nongroup market are largely insulated from increases in premiums because their out-of-pocket payments for premiums are based on a percentage of their income; the government pays the difference. The subsidies to purchase coverage combined with the penalties paid by uninsured people stemming from the individual mandate are anticipated to cause sufficient demand for insurance by people with low health care expenditures for the market to be stable.

Insurance companies are starting to make money on Obamacare. Nearly 20 million people have health insurance because of Obamacare. Premiums will probably go up next year, but not by a huge amount. And even if they do go up, federal subsidies will shield most people from having to pay any more than this year. Because of all this, CBO believes that Obamacare will stay stable and strong:

President Trump tweeted the opposite today, saying once again that Obamacare was on the verge of failing. This is a lie, one that he’s repeated over and over. Obamacare will fail only if he cuts off its funding.

The reason for this post isn’t so much to mention that Trump lied again today. The sun also rose in the east, and I didn’t write about that. It’s to remind everyone—including me—to stop writing tweets and blog posts that say something like this:

Trump says Obamacare is in a death spiral. He’s wrong.

When we repeat the lie, we just give it more exposure. The end result is that people vaguely know something about Obamacare and death spiral and controversial, and that’s it. They don’t really know who’s right, they just know that they keep seeing stuff about Obamacare being in trouble.

So don’t do it. Instead, just write the truth and then mention that Trump has lied about it.

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Obamacare Is Doing Fine Unless Trump Kills It

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Jason Chaffetz Is Fleeing Scandal—But Maybe Not His Own

Mother Jones

<!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC “-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN” “http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd”>

Jason Chaffetz is so ambitious that his last name is a verb.

In the political world, to Chaffetz means to throw a former mentor under the bus in order to get ahead, and various prominent Republicans, from former Utah governor and presidential candidate Jon Huntsman Jr. to House Majority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy, have experienced what it’s like to get Chaffetzed. But the five-term Utah Republican and powerful chairman of the House oversight committee shocked Washington on Wednesday when he announced he would not seek reelection in 2018 or run for any other political office that year in order to spend more time with his family.

“I am healthy. I am confident I would continue to be re-elected by large margins,” he said in a statement. “I have the full support of Speaker Paul Ryan to continue as Chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee. That said, I have made a personal decision to return to the private sector.”

His surprise announcement has fueled speculation of a possible scandal, though Chaffetz told Politico there’s nothing to the rumors about a skeleton in his closet: “I’ve been given more enemas by more people over the last eight years than you can possibly imagine… If they had something really scandalous, it would’ve come out a long, long time ago.”

Top House Republican Won’t Respond to Call to Probe Trump’s Conflicts of Interest

Chaffetz, who on Thursday said he might not finish out his term, has been considered a contender for Utah governor in 2020 and perhaps one day for the presidency. But the early days of the Trump administration haven’t been easy for him. The once-brash congressional inquisitor has twisted himself into a pretzel trying to explain why he hasn’t been investigating President Trump, the most conflict-ridden commander-in-chief in modern US history. And the 50-year-old congressman has experienced an unexpected level of outrage in his own deep red district.

By heading back to the private sector Chaffetz risks lowering his public profile, which could impede any gubernatorial effort. No one knows this better than Chaffetz, who sought the spotlight in DC and who built a career in public relations before running for Congress in 2008.

But Chaffetz’s rise in politics was hardly conventional, and it was aided by a publicist’s eye for reputational pitfalls and opportunities. His curious retreat should not lead any political observers to count him out of future contests. In fact, it’s probably best interpreted as a sign that he’s very carefully planning his political future—not abandoning it.

From the beginning, Chaffetz didn’t chart an obvious path to political power. The great-grandson of Russian immigrants, he was born in California and raised Jewish. He converted to Mormonism during his college years at Brigham Young University, the Mormon Church-owned school where he played on the football team as a place kicker.

Chaffetz majored in business and minored in communications, and after graduating he went to work for a local multilevel marketing company—think Amway—called Nu Skin, where he worked in PR. At the time that he joined, the company had some pretty significant public-relations needs. It was facing class-action lawsuits and investigations by state attorneys general and the Federal Trade Commission, all related to allegations that the company was operating as a pyramid scheme. (The company has been Chaffetz’s biggest campaign donor.)

Chaffetz spent more than a decade at Nu Skin before leaving the company abruptly in 2000 without any obvious next stop. He worked briefly in the coal industry, unsuccessfully applied to join the Secret Service, and eventually started a marketing firm with his brother called Maxtera.

In 2004, when Jon Huntsman Jr. ran for Utah governor, Chaffetz volunteered for his campaign; Chaffetz, whose mother died of breast cancer in 1995, says he was impressed with the work Huntsman had done to advance cancer treatment. Huntsman eventually asked Chaffetz to become his campaign’s communications director, and then his campaign manager. When Huntsman won the election, he appointed Chaffetz as his chief of staff. But Chaffetz only lasted a year in the job.

For the next two years, Chaffetz doggedly laid the groundwork to challenge Chris Cannon, a six-term incumbent Republican congressman—a politician whose campaigns Chaffetz had previously volunteered for. Cannon, who hailed from a well-connected political family, was conservative, but he was firmly in the Republican camp that supported immigration reform. This stance put him in the crosshairs of anti-immigration activists, as well as the grassroots agitators who would become members of the tea party. Conservative pundit Michelle Malkin dubbed Cannon a “shamnesty Republican.”

Chaffetz saw an opening, and he was aided by the somewhat arcane system through which Utah Republicans, until recently, selected their congressional candidates. Districts elected about 4,000 delegates, who in turn voted for their desired candidates at the state party’s convention. The top two winners moved on to the primary, unless one marshaled 60 percent of the vote, in which case that person became the GOP nominee. The system, it turned out, was well suited to a poorly funded upstart like Chaffetz, who could initially concentrate on winning a small group of delegates rather than tens of thousands of voters.

When Chaffetz decided to run, he invited Kirk Jowers, then the director of the Hinckley Institute of Politics at the University of Utah, to breakfast. Jowers was a veteran of dozens of GOP campaigns and Chaffetz asked him if he’d help with his long-shot race against Cannon. “I said no,” Jowers recalls. “He then asked, ‘Would you be willing to be part of the campaign in any capacity?’ I said no. He said, ‘Do you think I have any chance to win?’ and I said no. He said, ‘Do you mind if I just give you a call to talk about politics and policy?’ and I said no. I couldn’t have been worse to him,” Jowers says with a laugh.

But Chaffetz persisted, calling Jowers every two weeks for the next year and a half to update him on his progress. The former place-kicker campaigned largely on a harsh, anti-immigration platform. With an army of volunteer staffers, he worked each delegate heading to the convention—twisting arms and otherwise persuading them to vote for him, though he refused to succumb to the long-standing tradition of plying them with free food. Jowers slowly realized that the determined upstart actually had a shot.

Chaffetz’s lobbying blitz was overlooked by most polls, which until the GOP convention put him at a mere 3 percent in the race, a number so small he didn’t qualify to participate in the GOP’s televised debate. When the moderator asked Jowers afterward how he thought the debate went, Jowers responded, “It was great, except you didn’t have the one who was going to win.”

Jowers was right: Chaffetz won the convention, gaining nearly 60 percent of the delegate vote and very nearly knocking out Cannon in the first round. He went on to handily beat Cannon in the primary, even though the incumbent had a more than 4-to-1 spending advantage and had been endorsed by virtually the entire Republican establishment, including then-President George W. Bush. The loss so angered Cannon that he reportedly refused to talk to Chaffetz during the transition.

Barely had Chaffetz been elected to his first term in the House when he registered a new domain name: ChaffetzforSenate.com.

Even before he was sworn in, Chaffetz managed to vault himself from the House’s backbench into the national spotlight, albeit through an unusual route: leg wrestling Stephen Colbert on the Colbert Report. The goofy segment—the type of unscripted moment that politicians typically avoid—was the beginning of a media charm offensive that would make Chaffetz popular among journalists, whom he cultivated assiduously by passing out his personal cellphone number to reporters and accepting almost any interview request. It’s all about “old-fashioned human relationships,” he told National Journal in 2015. “You’ve got to get out there and invest the time. Work with the media!” (Apparently that rule doesn’t apply to Mother Jones. Chaffetz told me twice that he’d be happy to sit for an interview for this story but then never made himself available.)

The freshman congressman also scored an early PR coup by starring in a short-lived show, Freshman Year, produced by CNN on incoming members of Congress. He was shown unfolding a cot in his office, a sign of his commitment to living in Utah rather than Washington, DC, where he refused to rent an apartment.

Even as he courted reporters and TV bookers, Chaffetz warned the GOP establishment that his election was a warning sign. In the online diary that accompanied the CNN show, Chaffetz recounted how, during his first weeks in office in January 2009, he had gotten up before a House Republican strategy session and told the assembled members, “I am your worst nightmare.” He explained how the advent of social media had allowed him to bypass the mainstream media and, with very little funding, knock off an establishment candidate.

Chaffetz’s reading of the political winds proved prescient. His election foreshadowed the rise of the tea party movement that took over the GOP in 2010, prompting the ouster of many more incumbent Republicans, including House Minority Whip Eric Cantor.

Watch Jason Chaffetz Tell Poor Americans to Choose Between iPhones and Health Care

By 2011, it looked like Chaffetz was going to need that ChaffetzforSenate.com web address. He was talking openly of challenging his state’s most venerable senior statesman, Sen. Orrin Hatch, currently the longest-serving Republican in the Senate. Despite his powerful position in Washington, Hatch was vulnerable at home. Polls showed Chaffetz had a decent chance. And another upstart tea party conservative, Mike Lee, had just knocked off the state’s other elder Republican senator, Bob Bennett, by challenging him from the right.

For months, Chaffetz held meetings and events that gave every impression he planned to challenge Hatch. The Salt Lake Tribune declared that Chaffetz had even picked a date to unveil his candidacy, September 27. But shortly before Labor Day, Chaffetz hastily organized a press conference and announced that he would not run for Senate. He said the race would be a “multimillion-dollar bloodbath” and that he’d rather spend the next 18 months doing the job he was elected to do. Still, even as he put himself out of contention, he jabbed Hatch, declaring the Utah congressional delegation “dysfunctional” and lacking leadership from the senior senator.

Tim Chambless, a University of Utah political-science professor, says the announcement caught many in Utah off guard. “That has been mystifying to us.” It suggested that something in Chaffetz’s well-laid plans had gone seriously awry.

Ultimately, Chaffetz may have underestimated Hatch, whose mild-mannered exterior belies a ruthless political operator. There’s a reason he’s served longer than any Republican senator since Strom Thurmond. Cherilyn Eagar a conservative Republican activist and local talk radio host who lives in Chaffetz’s district, echoes what various sources told me. She says Utah political insiders suspect “the Hatch campaign had gotten heavy-handed. There was a bit of information they were going to disclose if he ran. Things were going to get ugly.” (Hatch’s office did not respond to a request for comment.)

Instead of running against Hatch, Chaffetz stapled himself to Mitt Romney, serving as a regular campaign surrogate for the failed GOP presidential nominee, whom he endorsed over his former mentor, Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr.

Chaffetz, now running for reelection in 2012, quickly found other ways to nab the spotlight. Before the FBI had secured the Benghazi compound following the September 11 attacks that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans, Chaffetz demanded to visit the scene in his capacity as the chairman of the House oversight subcommittee on national security and foreign operations. He dashed off to Libya less than a month later—without any Democrats, as the oversight committee’s policy dictates—to supposedly conduct an independent investigation.

The closest he got to the crime scene was Tripoli, 400 miles away. Chaffetz, who had previously voted to cut $300 million from the State Department’s budget for embassy security, claimed the purpose of his trip was to discern whether the Obama administration had denied requests for more security for the Benghazi compound. He uncovered little of substance, other than discovering that the State Department was a bit lax in allowing neighbors to throw trash over the embassy wall in Tripoli. The overeager gumshoe also managed to disclose the existence of a secret CIA base on the Benghazi compound during a subsequent hearing on the attacks.

Chaffetz’s Benghazi grandstanding helped to make him a right-wing hero, but it didn’t earn him the spot he desired on the select committee created by the Republican-led Congress in 2014 to investigate the Benghazi attacks.

By then, Chaffetz had already set his sights higher. He launched a campaign to win the chairmanship of the House oversight committee, then run by the bellicose Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), whose term on the panel was expiring in 2015. Issa had seen potential in Chaffetz and had helped him early in his congressional career by making him the chairman of the national security subcommittee. Chaffetz wasn’t in line for the oversight job by seniority, so launching a bid for this plumb post—a platform for politicians seeking to grab headlines—took some chutzpah.

Within the Republican caucus, Chaffetz campaigned for the chairmanship as the anti-Issa, implicitly critiquing the oversight chairman’s combative style and suggesting that he could bring to the committee an element of media savvy that Issa lacked. Once again, Chaffetz stabbed a mentor in the back and won. In 2015, he became one of the most junior members of the House ever to chair the high-profile committee.

“Do Your Job!” Hundreds of People Shout Down Jason Chaffetz Over Lack of Trump Probe

After assuming the chairmanship, one of his first moves was taking down the portraits of past chairmen, including Issa, that hung in the hearing room. Issa was not pleased. “It’s not a big deal, but it’s just indicative of what his mindset was and how self-centered he is,” says Kurt Bardella, who worked for Issa as the committee’s spokesman. Fellow lawmakers, Bardella notes, were repelled that “Jason would be so willing to throw under the bus someone who really tried to help mentor him, for his own gain.”

Running over people who helped him on the way up was becoming something of a pattern for Chaffetz. He’d chaired the oversight committee for less than year before launching an audacious bid for speaker of the House when John Boehner retired. Aside from being a very junior member of Congress, Chaffetz’s bid for the speakership also meant he would be running against his friend and former champion, Rep. Kevin McCarthy. As House Majority Leader, McCarthy had helped to launch Chaffetz’s rise in the House, dispensing with old seniority rules and working to promote telegenic young legislators, including Chaffetz. Hearing the news about the Chaffetz challenge, Jon Huntsman tweeted: “.@GOPLeader McCarthy just got “Chaffetzed.” Something I know a little something about. #selfpromoter #powerhungry

Chaffetz dropped his bid for speaker after Rep. Paul Ryan was cajoled into entering the race. He returned to his oversight committee work with a renewed zeal, threatening to impeach the head of the IRS over his handling of the nonprofit status of tea party groups and suggesting there might be grounds to remove President Barack Obama from office over Benghazi. He devoted a portion of the oversight committee’s website to enumerating the bureaucrats he claimed to have gotten fired—Salt Lake Tribune columnist Paul Rolly described this list as a “trophy case.”

Not all his targets have gone quietly into the night. In 2015, Chaffetz launched an investigation into problems with the Secret Service after a pair of drunk senior agents crashed a car into a White House barricade. Not long afterward, the Daily Beast reported that Chaffetz had been a wannabe agent himself prior to his career in politics but his application had been rejected in favor of a “BQA,” or “better qualified applicant”—a revelation leaked from inside the agency. Chaffetz told the Daily Beast that he believed he was rejected because he was too old. (He was in his mid-30s at the time, and the agency cutoff for agents was 37.)

A later investigation found that more than 45 people within the Secret Service had taken a look at his protected personnel file. Referring to the file, then-Assistant Director Edward Lowery emailed another director that March, saying, “Some information that he might find embarrassing needs to get out. Just to be fair.”

The election of Donald Trump seriously interfered with Chaffetz’s plans.

During the campaign, Chaffetz couldn’t make up his mind about the GOP nominee. After audio of Trump bragging about sexual assault during an Access Hollywood taping was published, Chaffetz disavowed the real estate mogul. “I can no longer in good conscience endorse this person for president. It is some of the most abhorrent and offensive comments that you can possibly imagine,” Chaffetz said. “My wife and I, we have a 15-year-old daughter, and if I can’t look her in the eye and tell her these things, I can’t endorse this person.” But Chaffetz soon reversed his stance, writing on Twitter that he’d still be voting for Trump. “HRC is that bad,” he wrote. “HRC is bad for the USA.”

HRC, a.k.a. Hillary Rodham Clinton, would have been good for Chaffetz’s political fortunes, however. He had been expecting to use his remaining tenure on the oversight committee, which expired in 2019, tormenting President Clinton. The month before the 2016 election, Chaffetz told the Washington Post that Clinton had provided him with “a target-rich environment. Even before we get to Day One, we’ve got two years’ worth of material already lined up.”

But after Trump won, Chaffetz seemed slow to acclimate to the new political environment. The day of Trump’s inauguration, Chaffetz Instagrammed a screen grab from Fox News, showing him shaking hands with Clinton at the ceremony. Under the photo he wrote, “So pleased she is not the President. I thanked her for her service and wished her luck. The investigation continues.”

The post—which earned him widespread scorn—may have been the first sign that Chaffetz was misreading the national mood and especially the attitudes of his largely Mormon constituents. While they largely disliked Clinton—she won a mere 23 percent of the vote in his district—they also harbored concerns about Trump, whose ethical conflicts and curious associations with Russia were rapidly piling up.

On February 9, Chaffetz got a wake-up call when he returned to Utah for a town hall, where he was besieged by a hostile, heckling crowd, shouting “Do your job,” and “We want to get rid you.” These listening sessions are typically subdued affairs, but this one drew hundreds of angry constituents, who demanded to know why the chairman of the House oversight committee was not doing more to investigate President Trump. (A pair of Utah Republicans recently bought a billboard on the highway to Chaffetz’s Utah office that asks, “Why won’t Chaffetz investigate the Trump-Russia connection?”)

So pleased she is not the President. I thanked her for her service and wished her luck. The investigation continues.

A post shared by Jason Chaffetz (@jasoninthehouse) on Jan 20, 2017 at 12:31pm PST

Chaffetz, who during the Obama administration reveled in launching headline-grabbing investigations, suddenly seemed reluctant to unleash his committee’s typically aggressive investigative powers. Trump’s conflicts of interest, he claimed, fell largely outside his jurisdiction. “I know it’s surprising and frustrating to Democrats, but the president is exempt from these conflicts of interest,” he told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer. As for the Russia connections, particularly those related to former national security adviser Michael Flynn, Chaffetz said there was no need to further probe Flynn because he’d been fired. “It’s taking care of itself.”

“He is in an unenviable position,” Chris Karpowitz, a political-science professor at Brigham Young University, told me weeks before Chaffetz’s surprise announcement that he was giving up his seat. “He’s still trying to figure out what his role is in a government in which Republicans control everything. I think he used the fact that he could investigate an administration of an opposing party to his advantage during the Obama years that allowed him to be in front of the cameras repeatedly, and to be seen as pursuing the interests of the Republican Party. But I think what has people, or at least some people, in his district concerned is the appearance of a double standard, that he was very eager to investigate Hillary Clinton and has been extremely hesitant to pursue serious questions about the Trump administration.”

Chaffetz’s district is one of the reddest in the nation, and he’s used to being popular at home. He was reelected last November with nearly 75 percent of the vote. But after four easy reelection campaigns, his poll numbers have plunged to their lowest levels ever. Before he announced that he would not seek reelection, opponents on his left and the right were lining up to take him on. Trump nemesis Rosie O’Donnell recently donated $2,700—the maximum allowed by law—to Chaffetz’s Democratic opponent, Kathryn Allen, giving her fledgling campaign a Twitter boost that has helped Allen rake in more than $500,000 in contributions. The former independent presidential candidate, Evan McMullin, who launched his anti-Trump effort in Utah, had suggested he might consider challenging Chaffetz or Hatch.

Even so, Chaffetz would likely prevail in a reelection bid. But that doesn’t mean the next two years would be a breeze for the ambitious congressman.

“I told him on election night that he just miraculously had gone to having the best job in America to the worst job in America, and that has been prophetic,” says Utah political expert Kirk Jowers, who now serves as a corporate vice president for doTERRA, a Provo-based multilevel marketing company. “He has almost the perfect rainbow of hate. Liberals will never think he’s doing enough in that position. And of course the alt-right may think anything he does against President Trump is feeding into this frenzy against their president. It has put him in a place where it’s very tough to do right by anyone.”

The current political atmosphere, in which Republicans control Congress and the White House, mainly holds downsides for Chaffetz, who has flourished as an opposition figure. Historically, the president’s party often suffers big losses in midterm elections, and early signs show that Democrats are gaining momentum in unexpected places, including deep-red Kansas.

Chaffetz, a canny political operator, has surely read the tea leaves, wagering that it is in his best interests to sit out the bruising political fights of the Trump administration’s first term lest Trump bring Chaffetz down with him. Given Chaffetz’s talent for self-promotion, it’s likely that he won’t veer too far from the public eye. Talk on Capitol Hill is that he may take the path of other high-profile members of Congress and nab a lucrative contract with one of the networks, where he can maintain his visibility, build up his bank account, and bide his time for the right moment to get back in the political game. Chaffetz has been less than subtle in hinting he’s interested. “I’d be thrilled to have a television relationship,” Chaffetz told Politico on Thursday.

But even as he announced that he was stepping away from politics, Chaffetz and his supporters seemed to be quietly planning his political future. In early April, his campaign committee registered the domains Jason2028.com and JasonChaffetz2028.com.

Original article:  

Jason Chaffetz Is Fleeing Scandal—But Maybe Not His Own

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