Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Excuse me, is that a stick in your eye?

We had a saying in racing that "There are losers and there are cheaters." In a perfect world, you could be competitive by following the rules. On earth, leveling the playing field requires a creative interpretation of the rules, some unwritten, that establish an understanding that if you file a complaint on my racing fuel, you can be sure the race officials will find out about your extra-special tires. Mutually assured destruction.

It's not a good idea to challenge the creativity of a competitor unless you wear a durable halo and propel yourself with wings. Tattling on another competitor out of spite for your loss leaves your popularity somewhere between a hangnail and a hemorrhoid and people avoided you like both. Ask Jose Canseco.

The Democrats have gotten themselves in just that type of pickle, that no ointment or bandaid can remedy. Maybe surgery. Having challenged Tom DeLay's travel habits and who paid for them, ethics panel discussions are having an amazing effect on the memory of other Senators, some who are DeLay's biggest critics:
Members of Congress are rushing to amend their travel and campaign records, fearing that the controversy over House Majority Leader Tom DeLay will trigger an ethics war that will bring greater scrutiny to their own travel and official activities.

Some offices have sharply limited staff travel, and some members are not traveling at all because of the intense review they believe they will face in coming months.

Lawmakers are paying old restaurant bills, filing missing forms and correcting erroneous ones as journalists and political opponents comb through records and DeLay (R-Tex.) attempts to answer questions about travel financing and his past relationships with lobbyists.

Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) wrote to the Federal Election Commission on April 15 to report that he had discovered that the Washington restaurant Signatures had not charged his credit card -- as he said he had directed -- for a 2003 fundraiser for 16 people that cost $1,846. The event was hosted by Jack Abramoff, a lobbyist and part-owner of the restaurant who is now under congressional and criminal investigation for his handling of millions of dollars in fees from Indian tribes. Abramoff was not at the event.

"I never thought about this event again until it was brought to my attention very recently that no payment or reimbursement for the event has ever appeared on our FEC report," Vitter wrote. He wrote to Signatures at the same time, directing the management to "charge my credit card today."

‘I apologize’

In another case, an aide to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) had not reported a 2004 trip to South Korea until a Washington Post reporter asked her office about it. Eddie Charmaine Manansala, Pelosi's special assistant on East Asian affairs, filed a disclosure form for the $9,087 trip a few hours after the newspaper's inquiry and sent a note to the ethics committee saying, "I did not know I was supposed to file these forms and I apologize for its lateness."

Rep. Neil Abercrombie (D-Hawaii) even asked the ethics committee to investigate him after a reporter for the newspaper Roll Call pointed out that a travel disclosure form from 2001 listed the lobbying firm Rooney Group International as paying for a $1,782 trip to Boston, which would be a violation of House rules.

House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) warned on Sean Hannity's radio show last week that there are "four or five cases out there dealing with top-level Democrats," whom he did not name.

The threats and maneuvering mark the end of an ethics truce that has existed between the parties since the battles that led to the downfall of House speakers Jim Wright (D-Tex.) in 1989 and Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) in 1998. Since then, the parties have largely refrained from filing charges against each other out of a calculation that they both lose in such contests.
Democrats must have seen some kind of advantage in singling out Tom DeLay. Call me dense for not seeing the brilliance of getting into battle of trains, planes and automobiles by dragging through the mud a man most of the country would ask, "Tom who?"

free web counters
Blue Nile Diamonds