Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Pot Calls the Kettle Black

Ethics is the branch of philosophy dealing with the rules of right conduct. An ethic is a principle of right or good conduct or a system of moral values. Given that, it is my responsibility to offer a correction: in my last letter to the editor, I stated that former Marine Sgt. Massey was presented to the Social Studies classes without an opposing balancing viewpoint. I was mistaken, apparently teachers Jeff Levin and Angelo Jardina performed that role. With all due respect to both gentlemen and recognizing the pointed questions Mr. Jardina put to Mr. Massey, I don’t see how a pair of teachers who the students have known at least all year can compare in impact and authority to a soldier returning from the frontlines. It is also my understanding that Mr. Levin invited Springfield Peace and Justice to bring Mr. Massey in, so I have to wonder about his ability to offer balance. I am also still left wondering how this obvious indoctrination was considered educationally valuable and why it was allowed to be presented in a school setting, but that’s an issue from another day.

Ethics is a charged issue and in the headlines currently. I’m referring to Tom DeLay and, of course, we know all about his ethics violations....or do we? Some things really should be kept in mind when discussing this issue. The grand jury in Travis County, Texas has not indicted DeLay though 3 of his associates were. The charges against several of the companies indicted in the case have been dropped after reaching dismissal agreements which included pledging financial support to the “non-partisan, balanced and publicly informative" LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin. If you review the actual “ethics violations” in the House, you’ll find they just don’t stand up to serious scrutiny, as the Ethics Committee time and again admits by not finding him in violation of the ethics rules. Despite Nancy Pelosi’s statement “Mr. Delay has now been rebuked twice by the Ethics Committee for abusing his power,” the fact is the Committee “after a five-month investigation...voted unanimously to gently reprove” DeLay and gave him an admonishment, “the least severe punishment the committee can give,” according to Christian Bourge, a UPI Congressional and Policy Correspondent reporting for the Washington Times.

The Ethics Committee is a ten person panel comprised of 5 Republicans and 5 Democrats. It is highly partisan on both sides and is used to score political points more often than to actually maintain an ethical standard. In the case of a tie, an ethical complaint is left standing. Recent changes enacted by the Republicans and opposed by the Democrats would have required complaints to be adjudicated one way or another within 45 days or they would lapse. The Democrats shut down the Ethics Committee rather than abide the rules changes. With the Ethics Committee not serving, DeLay cannot clear his name. Denny Hastert, House Majority Leader, just recently offered to rescind the rules changes to bring the Democrats back to the Committee table to allow DeLay’s case to be heard. It remains to be seen if the Democrats will re-open the Committee. If they do, a simple party-line vote will still deny DeLay a clean slate. So it’s business as usual.

Why would the Democrats refuse to re-open the Ethics Committee? Well, if they do there are bound to be some uncomfortable questions asked. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), House Minority Leader, sent an adviser to Spain and Germany in April 2004 for nine days but the trip was paid for by a nonprofit organization that donates to her and that she helped to get Federal Transit Administration money for. Pelosi’s office stated that the trip was “within House rules,” which happens to be exactly the same thing DeLay has said. In fact, The Cincinnati Post reports that “PoliticalMoneyLine, an online tracker of money in politics, found that lawmakers have taken $16 million in privately paid trips since 2000, over half of it from nonprofits.” Similarly, Representative Bernard Sanders (D-VT), as has been reported in both the Bennington Banner and Brattleboro Reformer, “used campaign donations to pay his wife and stepdaughter more than $150,000 for campaign-related work since 2000.” Of course, there is no law prohibiting politicians from paying family, which is exactly what DeLay said. The Washington Post notes that “members of Congress are rushing to amend their travel and campaign records...paying old restaurant bills, filing missing forms and correcting erroneous ones...” - - - excuse me, ‘erroneous’ filings?

While it’s true that the House Ethics Committee doesn’t cover the them, Senate Democrats (many of whom have been highly critical of DeLay) have questions to answer as well. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid has some questions to answer about The Clark County Conservation of Public Land and Natural Resources Act of 2002 which “promised a cavalcade of benefits to real estate developers, corporations and local institutions that were paying hundreds of thousands of dollars in lobbying fees to his sons’ and son-in-law’s firms,” according to the LA Times. That’s only one of Reid’s deals. None of the DeLay associates who have been indicted deny DeLay had any knowledge or wrong-doing. Such is not the case with Hillary Clinton, who’s ethical issues are almost legendary. David Rosen, Hillary’s former finance chairman, has been indicted for not declaring proceeds from Hillary’s August 2000 Hollywood fundraiser. Two of her associates clearly implicate her and expressly indicate her knowledge of the deal. Peter Paul bankrolled the event and has said, “Hillary personally called the producer of the concert...she asked him to lower the fee that he was charging of $850,000.” Aaron Tonken describes his face-to-face with Hillary when he “told her about virtually every penny I’d spent on her behalf.” Unfortunately for Hillary (notorious for not keeping good records), “both Tonken and Paul kept meticulous records.”

I don’t loose sleep over philandering politicians. That’s almost a fact of life. I don’t even raise an eyebrow when Pelosi, Reid, and others lie with such facility. It almost doesn’t faze me when the mainstream media neglect to call the aforementioned on their whoppers. What truly bothers me, what makes me pace the floor fuming, what makes me grind my teeth, is the eager willingness of rank-and-file Democrats to over-look, forgive, forget, and white-wash the glaringly apparent mis-statements and out-right lies, un-ethical and sometimes even criminal behavior of their elected representatives. Democrats seem deaf, dumb, and blind when the pot calls the kettle black.

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