For Sen. Roger Marshall, it was an unfortunate moment. During a committee hearing, the Kansas Republican badgered Dr. Anthony Fauci about his financial disclosure documents, which are readily available, but which the confused senator couldn't find.
As we discussed after the hearing, the two went back and forth for a while, with the senator apparently convinced that Fauci was hiding publicly available documents. When the senator's time expired, and Marshall backed off, a live microphone caught Fauci whispering, "What a moron."
Ideally, this would be seen as an embarrassing moment that the freshman senator is eager to forget. But in contemporary Republican politics, where shame has no meaning, Marshall apparently believes the incident created an important opportunity. HuffPost noted:
The GOP lawmaker plans to unveil the "FAUCI" Act, which stands for ― wait for it ― the Financial Accountability for Uniquely Compensated Individuals, a Marshall spokesperson told The Hill on Thursday. The Fauci Act "would require the Office of Government Ethics (OGE) website to provide the financial records of administration officials like Fauci and a list of those in the government whose financial records are not public," The Hill wrote.
So, Fauci's financial disclosure documents are already online, which is why Marshall is pushing legislation that would put Fauci's financial disclosure documents online.
The point is not that the bill will pass and become law. The point is that the GOP senator is proud of his unfortunate display and is eager to capitalize on it.
Indeed, a silly legislative proposal is just part of Marshall's public-relations effort. Talking Points Memo added yesterday:
Sen. Roger Marshall (R-KS) is now looking to fundraise off the fact that the U.S.'s top infectious disease expert dubbed him a "moron" last week.... Marshall's fundraising website features a shirt with an image of Fauci with the text "MORON" below.
It's quite likely that the financial appeal will work, which is part of the larger problem.
The system of incentives is inherently unhealthy. Marshall's antics suggest Republicans will benefit if they ask ridiculous questions, appear foolish, and annoy public officials the party's base has been conditioned not to like.