Saturday, January 14, 2006

"Democratic ethics" - an oxymoron?

If you're going to have a special legislative session on "ethics reform," do you really want to have legislators under indictment for bribery voting on the reforms?

Yep. If you're a Democrat ...

Tennessee Democratic state Sens. Ward Crutchfield and Kathry Bowers were caught in an FBI sting called "Operation Tennessee Waltz." This scandal, voted 2005 "story of the year" by Tennessee news editors, led the state's Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen to call a special session to deal with reforms. A Tennessee Republican state senator, Jim Bryson, called attention to the fact that Sens. Crutchfield and Bowers had still not resigned their seats, and asked whether it was appropriate for the disgraced Dems to be voting on "reforms."

Sen. Bryson said his rationale for the resolution was simple: a lawmaker indicted for criminal charges involving ethics should not be voting on legislation that deals with ethics reform.

Simple enough. Bryson sent Crutchfield and Bowers a letter, asking them not to attend the special session -- no response. So he introduced a resolution that would have urged the two indicted Dems not to attend. Democrats in the state senate voted down the resolution, and the shameless senators attended the session, with Crutchfield declaring:

"We're going to pass a very strong ethics bill ... I don't know anybody who's opposed to improving ethics."

As Lynn likes to say, is it possible to die from irony?

Four of the five lawmakers caught in "Operation Tennessee Waltz" were Democrats. The lone Republican caught in the sting, Rep. Chris Newton, did "the Republican thing" -- he pleaded guilty and resigned from office. Meanwhile, indicted Dems Crutchfield and Bowers remain in office.

This points out a key difference in GOP and Democratic responses to scandal, one we noted in DONKEY CONS: Democrats frequently survive even the most heinous scandals, remaining in office and sometimes going on to glory (think Chappaquiddick here). Republicans almost always resign after scandals (Nixon resigned rather than face impeachment; Clinton did not).

The story also illustrates Democrats' hypocrisy and opportunism when it comes to the partisan uses of scandal:

Tennessee Democratic Party spokesman Will Pinkston said Republicans are "desperately trying to make this into a partisan issue, and that just doesn't ring true with voters. People know that there is a broader issue of trust in government which spans both political parties."
He said Republicans should focus on their own problems, citing the case of Sen. Miller, who has acknowledged receiving $1,000 from Charles Love, an unregistered lobbyist and former Hamilton County Board of Education member. The senator, however, has said the money was a campaign contribution, not a bribe.
"If Ron Ramsey and Bob Davis are so concerned about these issues, then they need to ask Jeff Miller to step aside, considering he's square in the middle of a grand jury probe," Mr. Pinkston said. "Until they're ready to do that, this is all just a bunch of lip service."

OK, so faced with a serious ethics problem -- lawmakers indicted for bribery voting an "ethics reform" -- the Democrats (a) accuse the GOP of partisanship, (b) change the subject to a completely unrelated scandal that has not yet resulted in any legal charges, (c) insist that the fact that 4 of 5 busted lawmakers were Democrats "doesn't ring true with voters," and (d) insist that there is "as broader issue ... which spans both political parties."

Fine, fine. Now let's turn to Washington, DC, and the Abramoff lobbying scandal. Even though the central figures in this scandal are Republican, the fact is that Democrats in Congress got almost 3/4 as much Abramoff-connected cash as did GOP members. So the Abramoff scandal also "spans both political parties." Yet Rep. Nancy Pelosi says the scandal points to an exclusively Republican "culture of corruption," while Sen. Harry Reid says he'll keep every cent of the nearly $70,000 in Abramoff-related contributions he's collected, and insists:

"This is a Republican scandal. ... Abramoff gave me no money. So don't lump me in with Jack Abramoff."

And if Will Pinkston thinks a grand jury probe is sufficient reason for state Sen. Miller to "step aside," then what about the two Democrats in Congress identified among the FBI's "first tier" of suspects in the Abramoff scandal? Hmmm?

(Crickets chirping)

How do Democrats get away with such two-faced hypocrisy? The media. As Michelle Malkin pointed out in May, when Tennessee state Sen. John Ford was indicted, the AP omitted his partisan affiliation from its initial news story. This is part of a trend we noted here.

As Ann Coulter has observed, “Liberals simply can’t grasp the problem Lexis-Nexis poses to their incessant lying."


UPDATE: Just wanted to give a hat tip to GOP IN THE CITY, who has lots of good stuff on "Operation Tennessee Waltz."