This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
A little more than two years ago, as he was about to take the helm of the House Oversight Committee, Utah's Rep. Jason Chaffetz made a point of reaching out to the ranking Democrat on that panel, Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland.
The two very different politicians if two American politicians can be all that different visited each other's districts, sampled each other's culture and foods and pledged to co-operate as much as they could. Each suggested that, under previous management, the committee had been too partisan and not concerned enough with the common good.
Since then, there have been moments of bipartisanship, such as when both committee leaders took shots at obvious profiteering in the pharmaceutical industry. But the overall focus of the committee under Chaffetz's leadership has been just about as partisan as it was before, going after such targets as Planned Parenthood and Hillary Clinton's emails.
Now, with the partisan shoe on the other foot, Cummings has formally asked his friend from Utah to start looking into the complex and potentially conflict-ridden financial affairs that make up the empire of President-elect Donald Trump.
And that, if he wants anyone to take him seriously, is exactly what Chaffetz and his Oversight Committee should start preparing to do.
Not that it is going to be easy. The Washington Post reported Monday, "At least 111 Trump companies have done business in 18 countries and territories across South America, Asia and the Middle East."
The new president has refused to release his tax returns or to put his myriad dealings and income streams into a blind trust. Trump's adult children, who might reasonably take over his private business affairs, are also fully involved in the details of the transition, creating even more opportunities for, and appearances of, huge conflicts of interest.
Chaffetz, Cummings, their committee, Congress and the American people need to know if Trump will, or even might be tempted to, manage domestic, foreign, military and trade policy in ways that put his own interests ahead of those of the nation or its people.
The temptation for any chief executive to want to curry favor with big American business interests, because they employ a lot of people and because they donate a lot to political campaigns, is already all but overwhelming. The added question with Trump is whether he would show the same kind of favoritism to foreign countries or firms whenever it would benefit his own bottom line.
And, if Chaffetz misses the fun he had going over tenuous claims that Clinton was playing fast and loose with classified material when she was secretary of state, he might start looking into reports that Trump has been chatting with Russian President Vladimir Putin and other foreign leaders on unsecure phone lines.
For the president-elect, it's called a transition. For Chaffetz and his committee, it should be a transition as well, a shift from investigating people who no longer hold power to people who do. No matter which party they belong to.