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November 19, 2004

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Ethics 'R Us

I have news for you -- it is NOT only Democrats who are complaining about this vote. I am a Republican who happens to believe that WE are the ones who control our own code of ethics, NOT a prosecutor in Texas. Also see David Brooks in 11-20 NYT, John Podhoretz in 11-19 NY Post, Andrew Sullivan and Professor Bainbridge

Ethics 'R Us

I have news for you -- it is NOT only Democrats who are complaining about this vote. I am a Republican who happens to believe that WE are the ones who control our own code of ethics, NOT a prosecutor in Texas. Also see David Brooks in 11-20 NYT, John Podhoretz in 11-19 NY Post, Andrew Sullivan and Professor Bainbridge

Cecil Turner

I'm not sure Podhoretz's column helps your argument. Sullivan chose to play up the "Party, not principle" bit, but on the secifics of the case:

DeLay and his defenders claim that he is the target of an unscrupulous Democratic prosecutor, one Ronnie Earle, who is using the criminal-justice system as a partisan weapon. There's strong evidence that DeLay is right about this--strong evidence that if DeLay were forced from his leadership role in his party, it would be a personal injustice against him.
Apparently both he and Sully believe the perception of principled behavior is more important than the reality of politically motivated prosecutorial misconduct--which I find hard to credit.

Runaway prosecutors are no less a danger to the Republic than corrupt fundraising. If Earle is in fact pursuing prosecutions based on political goals (and though I have no particular insight, both Podhoretz's admission and the Hutchison case tend toward that interpretation), he ought to be stopped--or in any event not rewarded--the current rule would encourage more of the same. If Delay is in fact guilty of some malfeasance, he should at a minimum be stripped of his leadership position . . . but I have no confidence that indictment by Earle would be a credible indicator of such guilt.

Jor

On the flipside, even Baghdad Brooks knows Delay is a sinking ship.

Jor

Cecil, when Baghdad Brooks says Delay is a crook, you're in trouble. Like usual evidence and facts dont matter, you here republicans repeat assertions a hundred times and it becomes fact.

I eagerly await Tom's explanation of republicans attempt to access ANYBODY IN THE COUNTIRES TAX Return. I'm sure that too will be MediaMatters fault. OR will it be Clinton, or Kerry? Who can we blame for that?

ed

Hmmmm.

You mean the "facts" that this same prosecutor indicted another Republican, brought the case to trial but had it thrown out because no evidence was offered? Not "not enough evidence". No evidence.

Here's a thought. Republican prosecutors are now free to bring charges against Democrats. If this twit of a Democrat in Texas can do it, why not a Republican?

Too bad it wouldn't have an effect since the Democrats don't have ethical standards.

Frankly the only people incised about this are Democrats. Most Republicans know that anything Pelosi talks about is usually bullcrap.

ed

Hmmm.

"I eagerly await Tom's explanation of republicans attempt to access ANYBODY IN THE COUNTIRES TAX Return."

What the hell are you talking about?

Cecil Turner

"Cecil, when Baghdad Brooks says Delay is a crook, you're in trouble."

Don't know, could be (except I'm not in trouble, cuz I don't particularly care for the guy). But if we're going to pitch him over the side, I'd like to see it happen because he's doing a bad job--or did something illegal--not because a dubious prosecution tripped an automatic procedural switch.

The little I know of the particular case is that former Delay associates were using corporate money for election purposes. And the competing allegations of whether the funds were legal for "soft money" uses, and whether they were actually used that way. Considering the total hash of Campaign Finance Reform (thanks, John McCain!)--I can't get hugely excited about it. (I mean, it's not like they were taking money from Chinese Communists or anything.) But the bottom line is the one Ed pointed out above. Earle's prosecution (and abrupt dismissal) of charges against Kay Bailey Hutchison earns him extra scrutiny the next time he tries a high-profile case. And so far, it's hard to see Delay as a pivotal figure in it.

martin

hey Ed-the House Repubs have voted to make this the law of the land:

"Hereinafter, notwithstanding any other provision of law governing the disclosure of income tax returns or return information, upon written request of the Chairman of the House or Senate Committee on Appropriations, the Commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service shall allow agents designated by such Chairman access to Internal Revenue Service facilities and any tax returns or return information contained therein."

That would mean your tax return too Ed! Hallefallujah! I'm glad the era of small government is finally here!

martin

Please note that law to be would be impossible under the 1994 Republican Contract with America, which provided as its first guarantee:

"FIRST, require all laws that apply to the rest of the country also apply equally to the Congress;"

Since nobody else in the country has the power to order up your tax return without judicial approval, this amendment wouldn't fly.

If only Republicans controlled Congress...

Robert Crawford

Martin, care to give a source for your claims?

Not that I don't think it's possible; I just think you need to give a source.

martin

What source do you need Crawford?

If you haven't read about the Istook amendment by now, quit hanging out exclusively on right leaning sites where they studiously ignore these things.

As for the Republican Contract-it's easily available via Google.

Cecil Turner

Robert,

It's a real issue (or at least it was):

The language was caught and removed in the Senate on Saturday, but the House will have to approve the fix before the spending bill can be sent to the White House for President Bush's signature.
It was never a law--nor did it apparently have much chance of becoming one--but it was inserted in the appropriations bill. The flap yesterday was where it came from. (And according to Drudge: "Rep. Istook, R-Okla. was responsible for the insertion of the provision.")

Trying to apply the "Contract With America" provision is silly, of course. Nobody else in the country has the power to initiate spending bills either . . . I don't think anyone is reading the contract as a proposal to suspend that procedure.

Robert Crawford

What source do you need Crawford?

Um, a reputable news source? A reliable journalist?

If you haven't read about the Istook amendment by now, quit hanging out exclusively on right leaning sites where they studiously ignore these things.

You, of course, know everything I read, when I read it, and what I read in depth vs. what I skim.


Cecil -- thanks. Sounds like another example of a politician who's been in office too long.

Cecil Turner

"Cecil -- thanks. Sounds like another example of a politician who's been in office too long."

You're welcome, and I agree. There may be a relatively innocent explanation for that provision, but I sure can't think of one.

And since I badmouthed McCain earlier in the thread, it's only fair to point out he had the most sensible reaction to this:

Sen. John McCain said Sunday that the episode points up the problems created when Congress passes gigantic spending bills at the end of a session, before anyone has time to read them.
I also like the idea of Schumer and Pelosi holding up consideration of the new bill until an investigation can be completed. I doubt they're dumb enough to carry through with it, though.

martin

Turner you're missing the point badly.

OK- no one else has the power to initiate spending bills. But if they did-the intent of the Republican Contract would be to ensure that Congress did not exempt itself from the laws it passes governing everybody else's spending bills.

In real life, the original Gingrichites were going after things like Congress passing mandatory overtime wage laws for employers-but meanwhile exempting itself from having to pay Congressional employees overtime. "Live with what you make the rest of us live with" is the basic idea.

Now-everyone has the power to ask to see someone else's tax return. It requires a subpoena. If the person moves to quash the subpoena-a judge decides the issue.

Congress has the power to issue subpoenas. And you can move to quash it. But that's not good enough for the Lord God Almighty Istook-he wants to exempt himself from the laws that apply to everyone else and be empowered to get tax returns without following that apply to the rest of the country.

So it does in fact violate the actual intent of the Republican Contract. Believe me, I was a strong supporter of that Contract. I know Congressional bullshit when I see it-and this is it.

As for as your bland assurance that it had no chance to become law-if a staffer for a Democratic Senator hadn't spotted this one paragraph in a 1600 page document-it quite easily could have become law.

Do you know what else in that 1600 page bill? Does any one person? No.

Cecil Turner

"Turner you're missing the point badly . . . . In real life, the original Gingrichites were going after things like Congress passing mandatory overtime wage laws for employers-but meanwhile exempting itself from having to pay Congressional employees overtime."

Martin, there's no point there to miss. Since you obviously understand the intent of the "contract" provision, you just as obviously see that it's a stretch to apply it to the current situation. I think we all agree that it's a bad proposal--but it's hardly a hypocritical attempt to exempt Congress from laws passed affecting everyone else--or even "everyone else with subpoena power." It's an attempt to give two committee chairmen a power they shouldn't have.

"As for as your bland assurance that it had no chance to become law-"

I note the huge fight by the Republicans to keep it in . . . not. Again, McCain's observation is spot on--practically nobody knew it was there. But the provision could not have remained undetected when it was exercised--at which point it would immediately be repealed. (And in that case, it would have been just as telling a point against the Democrats who didn't read the bill as it was against the Republicans--maybe more so.)

martin

Turner-really-I will gladly debate you-but quit pulling things out of your posterior.

"It would be immediately repealed." Is that a fact? If so, I will concede the debate immediately, since I am helpless against one who can simultaneously predict the future and mindmeld with 535 Congress people plus the President.

Meanwhile-your point that if this monstrosity did pass the Democrats would be more to blame than Republicans is just...well, I'm speechless.

ed

Hmmm.

Yeah because nobody ever includes idiotic last-moment amendments and riders to huge spending bills.

Frankly lots of BS and nothing else. Every spending bill has BS appended to it.

So I'm supposed to be what? Surprised? Distressed?

Frankly I'm unimpressed Martin. Why don't you go find me something that actually passed into law. And then, while you're at it, please explain to me how Bill and Hillary got all those confidential FBI files and how that's the fault of Republicans.

martin

Ed take that kind of deep thinking to Free Republic where it belongs my man.

In 1994 I was a Republican Ed. Bigtime. The fact that 10 years after Republicans gained control of the House is distressing to me.

But in the end I can't really blame the Repubs. It's the people's fault.

People like you Ed-with you're oh so cynical resignation that every spending bill has BS appended to it. Is that a universal law Ed I thought it was something a principled will to good governance could eliminate.

People like Crawford-who doesn't even stay informed of what they're attempting to pass on the Hill.

People like Turner-with his intellect devoted to sophistrical spinning.

Meanwhile-could someone please introduce a bill to abolish the Department of Education already.

martin

A little garbled there. I meant to say that I am distressed that 10 years after our takeover-Repub chairmen spout lines like this:

"We have a problem with how bills like this are put together. On occasions, appropriations staff will take the initiative to insert language they believe will be non-controversial. They do this with the approval of full committee staff, but without the knowledge or approval of subcommittee chairman like me. That is what happened in this case.

"We have a chain of command problem over whether the subcommittee staff are ultimately accountable to the full committee staff-who represent the full committee chairman-or to the subcommittee chairman. The subcommittee chairman should never be bypassed like I was in this case. I will work to fix this as part of the reorganization of the appropriations committee that will take place during the next several weeks."

(Crawford-That's Istook as quoted by the AP today)

martin

Oh and Ed-if you want a piece of total BS passed by a Republican congress-check out the 2003 Medicare Bill. It's scary. In fact it made me resign my party membership. I'd give you the details but I know you don't give a rat's ass as long as Hillary doesn't get elected.

Cecil Turner

People like Turner-with his intellect devoted to sophistrical spinning.

Whatever, Martin. You're the one holding up a rider on an omnibus spending bill--that upon being held up to scrutiny was immediately rescinded--as a huge issue. It isn't. Lots of stupid stuff gets proposed every year . . . some of it even gets signed into law. It isn't sophistry (or even "sophistrical") to point out that a stupid proposal being voted down is hardly a watershed event. And since even the two gentlemen who would supposedly benefit from the law disavowed it immediately (and since it'd be an obvious political disaster to support it), I'd maintain "immediately repealed" as the most likely outcome if it had passed. Which is not terribly significant, since it didn't.

Nor does it have anything to do with a Republican promise not to foist measures on the public that they exempt themselves from. (Nor, for that matter, with politically motivated prosecutions.) As to your speechlessness, who do you expect to do the more critical reading of proposed legislation? They still call 'em the "loyal opposition" don't they?

martin

Turner-I'm pissed off about it as the symbol of a larger disease. Aggressive treatment works best in the early stages.

And no Turner-I expect the majority to do the most critical reading of proposed legislation- because their's is the greater responsibility.

If you're counting on Democrats to trim Republican excesses, good luck.

Geek, Esq.

I'm struck not only by the Orwellian tax return provision, but also by the complete lack of moral integrity on the part of the House Republicans.

Apparently, it wrote itself. Nobody is taking responsibility for it.

If the Dems are smart, they'll run against Washington D.C. It's not like they have any stake in it as things stand.

Cecil Turner

"I'm pissed off about it as the symbol of a larger disease."

Okay, but you already diagnosed the disease: "Do you know what else in that 1600 page bill? Does any one person? No." (Which is exactly the point McCain made, and I agree with.) To simultaneously try to portray it as an evil plot by an all-knowing Republican leadership trying to pull one over on the Democrats is self-contradictory: it's one or the other, it can't be both.

As to which side should read the bills, the answer is self-evident: "both." The Dems can claim a bit of moral high ground for catching this one (assuming that's how it happened)--but if it had sailed through without either side noticing, neither side would have had the least excuse.

Jeff

I always hate to get in the way of a good lynching, but the fervor here notwithstanding, Earle appears to have the facts on his side:

"During his long tenure, Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle has prosecuted many more Democratic officials than Republicans. The record does not support allegations that Earle is prone to partisan witch hunts."
--Houston Chronicle, 6/17/03

Even many Republicans recognize that DeLay is corrupt and dirty. Is anyone really shocked--shocked--to imagine a politician ABUSING power?

Lurking Observer

Which politician, Jeff?

Earle?

DeLay?

Both?

Jeff

DeLay.

Acrobat

Jeff:

What the Houston Chronicle (and everyone else in Texas) knows - but which that article fails to mention - is that Earle's *job* was to purge the Texas Democratic party of Ann Richard's enemies. That's what accounts for his prosecution record.

The fact that not all of his enemies were Republicans does not mean that his prosecutions weren't politically motivated, current spin aside. It sure does seem to fool a few folks now, or at least those who've never heard of Earle before. He's still a hack -- and we all know it.

-Acrobat

kim

What did he have on Richardson that the judge did not allow?
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