lundi, novembre 22, 2004

The Future Governor of Minnesota - DeLay Indictment

Congratulations to my friend Melissa! I met her in school, and she is now a member of the Minnesota House of Representatives. This is her second run for the State Legislature, and she won a hotly contested race that was part of a democratic swing recapturing 13 seats in our state House.

Keep an eye on Melissa. She will be Governor one day.

So, Tom DeLay may be indicted for his possible role in irregularities (related to voting and to fundraising/financing) that took place during 2002 state legislative races in Texas. Three of his associates have already been indicted. If DeLay is indicted, he need not worry too much: his House colleagues (including two Minnesota Representatives who were aided by DeLay's PAC) have voted to remove a requirement that he resign his post if a felony indictment is returned against him. Indicted. Indictment.

If DeLay is indicted and retains his post, it will be disturbing on so many levels (here are a few):

First, DeLay should step down, and his failure to step down is disturbing.

Second, the honorable thing to do was to not put your colleagues in the compromising position to have to vote to overturn the rule in the first place. Where's Dennis Hastert when you need him?

Third, if he cannot step down, it's appropriate to question why DeLay was returned to his House Majority Leader post in the first place. There are many signs that he is all too willing to bend the rules (I'm being nice) and act in a manner that is counter-productive to democracy. Questions about his legitimacy for leadership are so many and so well-founded, that he may not be able lead. What does it say for the Republican party that he was re-elected/selected?

Fourth, elected officials who have felony indictments returned against them should step down while the matter is cleared (or not cleared).

Fifth, whatever logic motivated the Republican decision (in 1993) to require elected officials with felony indictments to step down was probably sound - what has changed in the last 11 years to render the rule unnecessary? Is it related to the morals voters? Ironically, the Republicans passed the rule to counter what they regarded as ethical lapses by the Democratic party.

Sixth, DeLay has been admonished three times (by unanimous votes in all three instances - all five Democrats and all five Republicans) by the House Ethics Committee. He seems to have a problem on the ethics front. In one instance, he was punished for implying that donations would allow donors access and influence. It's called quid pro quo. Nice.

Seventh, the appropriate response to these allegations does not change because DeLay is a prolific fundraiser or because he helped secure the Republican majority in the Texas House (which made the Gerrymandering so easy) or because he contributed so much to House colleagues and their electoral campaigns.

Eighth, and perhaps most importantly: DeLay is under investigation for tactics that are hostile to the right to vote. Gerrymandering and unethical fundraising undermine the value of a vote. The end result is that we all lose. If scoundrels aren't sanctioned, and if anti-democratic practices by the higher reaches of government are not punished, well then, shame on us all (but mostly shame on the Republicans who voted to return him as House Majority Leader in the first place, and shame on them for voting to overturn the rule that would have required him to step down in the event that he is indicted).

Ninth, I tend to compare all political scandals on the Lewinsky meter. A sexual indiscretion followed by dishonesty to cover it up led to impeachment. Or, stated differently, consensual act between two adults and some lies led to impeachment of a President. Here, we have a man who is accussed of Gerrymandering, who also offers quid pro quo arrangements in exchange for votes, who has thrice been admonished for ethics violations, a man who takes steps that undermine democracy - all with a negative impact to thousands of voters (not to mention countless others who are put off by the process). His punishment? A rule change to protect his job.

Well at least DeLay has not done anything