Missouri GOP Cheats Ron Paul

I’m a native of Missouri and went to college at Washington University in St. Louis, where I was involved in the College Republicans. For a time, I was secretary of the Missouri Federation of College Republicans, too. So I know how things work in the Missouri GOP, and I know that there are some utterly corrupt people in it. I wasn’t surprised when Gov. Matt Blunt, a Republican, decided he wouldn’t be running for re-election. He’s a rotten egg.

Needless to say, the establishment in the Missouri Republican Party doesn’t like the idea of Ron Paul Republicans coming in and getting elected as delegates to the state convention. Ron Paul supporters won fair and square in the Show Me state’s recent caucuses, but the crooks infesting the party don’t want to accept the result, and they’re trying to disqualify the Ron Paul delegates. Here’s the Paul campaign’s press release on what’s going on:

ARLINGTON, VIRGINIA – The Ron Paul campaign has been receiving reports that Missouri GOP rules have been violated in the set-up and execution of several county Republican caucuses. Ron Paul supporters in Missouri have been attending their county caucuses and electing Ron Paul delegates to be seated at the Missouri Republican State Convention. However, there are concerns that many Ron Paul delegates to the Missouri Republican State Convention were disenfranchised and not properly seated.

On Thursday, March 20, campaign field director Debbie Hopper visited the Missouri state GOP headquarters to request a copy of the records needed to obtain the information to file challenges. She was told in front of witnesses that she could not view the report. To obtain the needed information, Ms. Hopper then used the contact information of county chairs listed on the state GOP website. On Saturday, March 22, the webpage containing their contact information had been removed.

The Paul campaign believes that a handful of GOP officials are playing machine politics and breaking their own rules to disenfranchise Paul supporters.

“The Republican party is in trouble and needs more participants in 2008, not less,” said campaign manger Lew Moore. “It makes no sense for Missouri party leaders to exclude and marginalize the new activists they badly need to work at every level this fall.”

Republican presidential candidate and Texas Congressman Ron Paul’s supporters have been highly successful in several Missouri counties. In St. Charles County (suburb of St. Louis), Paul supporters filled 241 of the 274 country Republican delegate slots. In Jackson County (Kansas City), Paul supporters filled 162 of 187 delegate slots. And in Greene County (Springfield), Paul supporters filled 72 of 112 delegate slots.


The Downfall of Tim Goeglein

Another White House staffer falls from grace. This time it’s Tim Goeglein, the administration’s liaison to the conservative movement. He’d been writing an occasional column for the Fort Worth Wayne News Sentinel for no pay and with no deadline pressure. But still he plagiarized, stealing liberally from Jeffrey Hart and other authors, as a hostile blogger discovered.

Most of the media coverage of the Goeglein scandal has emphasized that he was the White House’s point man for contact with the religious Right, and some accounts even credit him with the landslide religious turnout for Bush in 2004. Goeglein reached out beyond the usual Bush constituencies, however. He interpreted his role as liaison to conservatives to include at least a little liasing with paleoconservatives. One paleo professor of my acquaintance received a friendly note from Goeglein about a book the prof had written (though he wasn’t flattered by Goeglein’s attention) and a certain paleo editor received a cordial invitation to lunch with Goeglein. Was the White House just trying to curry favor with its right-wing critics or, as one of my friends suspects, was Goeglein just too stupid to see the difference between Bushism and paleo-ism? I like to be charitable and think that Goeglein took a genuine interest in paleo thought, but that’s moot now.

One might wonder why there seems to be an unusual number of conservatives lately getting nabbed for things like plagiarism and shoplifting. I think the mixture power-mania and personalized religion that mainstream conservatives have embraced in recent years has something to do with it. (If you know you’re on the side of the angels when it comes to big matters like the GWOT and abortion, what does it matter if you cheat a little — especially when you have a close personal relationship with Jesus?) Although it’s an overblown book in many respects and makes some dubious Adorno-esque claims, John Dean’s Conservatives Without Conscience is on to something. It’s worth a read in light of all the Republican scandals great and small of recent years.

Idle Thoughts About Larry Craig

A lot of libertarians are making him out to be the victim of overzealous police, and perhaps the victim’s of society’s homophobia as well. Come on: neither is true. First, if you think this is a gay thing, try going to the nearest airport, go into the bathroom of the opposite sex, and do what Larry Craig did.  My guess is that you’ll be treated much more harshly than he was; certainly nobody is going to say that there’s no problem with that behavior, even most of the pro-Craig libertarians.

But wasn’t it just an old-fashioned “get the gays’ sting in the first place? Well, no.  This wasn’t raiding a gay bar or a bathhouse or something–this was a public restroom in a busy airport.  I think ordinary flyers have a reasonable expectation not to be pestered by U.S. senators and other disreputable persons in public restrooms. And, by the way, no Craig was not arrested simply for having a “wide stance” or for tapping his foot.  He was arrested only after he put his hand under the stall of the guy next to him–who happened to be a police officer–and motioned for him to come on over. That’s why one of the charges against Craig, dropped as part of his guilty plea, was infringement of privacy. There may not be strict property rights involved, but as a general policy, something that would be reasonable on private property and that is no less reasonable on public property, it’s fair to say that reaching into other people’s toilet stalls is improper and ought to be penalized.

As for the penalty, Craig was fined less than $600 after his guilty plea.  That’s aint exactly harsh persecution of an embattled minority, now is it?

Mind you, I do agree that having police officers lurking in bathrooms is not a good thing: but if there were reports of public sex and importuning of people who didn’t want people like Larry Craig reaching into their stalls, I don’t see what better course of action the police had.  Should they not act upon reports of crimes in men’s rooms?  There was no entrapment here, and Craig was, again, not arrested just for anything as innocuous as tapping his foot or brushing against the foot of the person in the next stall (which, by the way, may not be so innocuous after all: how many readers have ever accidentally brushed against somebody’s foot in the next stall in a bathroom airport? I’ve never heard of such a thing.)

Then there are the hypocrisy and meta-hypocrisy angles.  Conservatives were quick to say, in some venues, that liberals were being hypocrites for attacking Craig for hypocrisy, since Craig was never that big of a family values guy (though he did support the usual anti-gay-marriage efforts), and besides, liberals are tolerant of Barney Frank’s behavior.  And then there was Mitch McConnell, the Republican senate leader, who was flummoxed when asked why Craig should be expected to resign for his sexual peccadilloes while Sen. David Vitter’s visits to prostitutes are tolerated. (I would have said that prostitution is a private matter, while reaching into other people’s bathroom stalls is very un-private.) All the talk of  hypocrisy inevitably puts me in mind of Jeremy Lott’s book In Defense of Hypocrisy.  Should Craig’s misbehavior be overlooked or forgiven because he votes in a reliably socially conservative way, despite his private life, or should the GOP purge him?

Well, it’s more important to me that Craig voted against reauthorizing the Patriot Act, which is perhaps one reason he hasn’t been getting much support from the Bushies. As for hypocrisy, the question I have is: just what do conservatives think they can accomplish when they have a political leadership like this? That applies, if anything, a fortiori to economic issues: if Larry Craig can be publicly against homosexuals but privately engage in anonymous gay sex, how much easier it is for all these “conservative” Republicans in politics to talk about shrinking government while actually voting for its expansion?  Larry Craig is an outstanding symbol not so much of hypocrisy as of political doublethink: say one thing, vote one way on symbolic matters, but behave in completely another way.  That’s at the very root of conservative fecklessness in either remoralizing the country (which is not a job for government in any event) or cutting down on spending and the state power.

I seem to recall that Thomas Aquinas says the worst thing about lying is not the intent to deceive other people, but rather the willful abuse of reason involved in misidentifying what is true and what is false. I don’t know if I’d agree that that’s worse than deceit–I bet Larry Craig’s family might have some doubts on that score as well–but Aquinas is on to something. A willful disregard for reality is, after all, a defining characteristic of the modern Republican Party. Admittedly, Craig’s problem in that regard is not as extreme as others in his party. But it all adds up. And a willingness to lie and evade reality in one regards probably helps one to lie and evade reality in other, more serious matters.

Gonzales: Snatching Papers Is More Important Than My Job

Somehow I don't think Bush would have returned the William Jefferson papers even without Gonzales threatening to resign, but it's interesting that Gonzales — who, lest we forget, is pro-affirmative action and abortion — is so committed to expanding executive power that he would resign if he weren't allowed to keep the papers snatched from a congressman's office.

Keep in mind, the FBI has video of Jefferson accepting cash. The case against him doesn't exactly depend on anything taken from his office (and in any case, the FBI could have asked the House Sergeant-at-Arms to secure the papers if they really were that important).

It needs to be said again: the chief objective of the Bush administration, at least since 9/11, has been to increase executive power. The administration's appointees, Gonzales in particular, are exhibit A. Their trampling over conventional, legal, and constitutional protections of private citizens and now congressmen is exhibit B. There isn't enough space on a blog — or letters in the alphabet — to list all the other exhibits…

Now They’re Worried About Separation of Powers

The separation of powers has taken quite a battering under the Bush administration: the president's "signing statements" alter or even negate the plain meaning of laws passed by Congress; Bush attempts to employ executive-branch military tribunals instead of courts whenever possible; he doesn't bother to observe laws passed by Congress requiring executive agencies to get a court order for domestic wiretaps; etc. You know the litany.

The Republican-led Congress has been virtually supine throughout all of this, illustrating once again how political parties can short-circuit the entire idea of separation of powers. But one thing the executive branch has done lately really has lit a fire under House Speaker Dennis Hastert: the FBI raid of Rep. William Jefferson's office. This is a separation of powers issue that Congress actually cares about. The Washington Post quotes Hastert:

"Insofar as I am aware, since the founding of our Republic 219 years ago, the Justice Department has never found it necessary to do what it did Saturday night, crossing this Separation of Powers line, in order to successfully prosecute corruption by Members of Congress," he said. "Nothing I have learned in the last 48 hours leads me to believe that there was any necessity to change the precedent established over those 219 years."

It's easy to scoff at this — the constitutional right of congressmen to accept suitcases full of money must be protected! — but actually, Hastert is right. One tip-off is that the Viet Dinh, chief author of the PATRIOT Act and a man who has seemingly never met a civil liberty or constitutional protection he would not abrogate, defends the raid, as the Post reports.

The raid is just as unprecedented as Hastert says, and there's a reason this sort of thing hasn't been done before: it does indeed have the potential for abuse as a means to intimidate the legislature. The FBI didn't explicitly violate Article I, Section 6 of the Constitution — "[Congressmen and senators] shall in all cases, except treason, felony and breach of the peace, be privileged from arrest during their attendance at the session of their respective Houses, and in going to and returning from the same; and for any speech or debate in either House, they shall not be questioned in any other place" — but traditionally "Parliamentary privilege" and its analogs are given a wide interpretation. University of Baltimore Law Profess Charles Tiefer has been quoted in several sources spelling out what's at stake. He told a reporter for CongressDaily:

"Congress is frequently at odds with the FBI and the Department of Justice and other investigative or security agents working with them," he said. "It must intimidate critical overseers to know that the FBI feels they have the power to seize their file cabinets without even serving a subpoena beforehand."

And as he told the Washington Post: "The Framers, who were familiar with King George III's disdain for their colonial legislatures, would turn over in their graves."

Jerry Lewis Under Investigation

No, not that Jerry Lewis, but the House appropriations chairman — the big-spending Republican the Wall Street Journal calls "the Minority Maker." According to the Washington Post, the Justice Department is conducting an investigation into Lewis's relationship with a lobbying firm, an investigation loosely connected to the Randy "Duke" Cunningham affair, though there are no prostitutes involved in this part of the story, at least not yet. The Post story is rather vague about what's really going on; TPM Muckraker offers a bit more background on Lewis and the prospect of several other members of the appropriations committee following the Dukester into the pokey.

Extortion Under Law

Still a good source for the big picture on the nexus of the Republican Party and lobbyists is this 2003 article from The Washington Monthly. It's a look at the K Street strategy, the virtual extortion racket (overseen in part by Rick Santorum) designed to pressure trade associations into filling their ranks of lobbyists with Republicans. The political benefits of this operation are pretty clear: high-paying jobs for Republican hacks (typically ex-congressional aides), which translate into more donations for the GOP naturally enough. But that's not all:

…jobs and campaign contributions are just the tip of the iceberg. Control a trade association, and you control the considerable resources at its disposal. Beginning in the 1990s, Washington's corporate offices and trade associations began to resemble miniature campaign committees, replete with pollsters and message consultants. To supplement PAC giving, which is limited by federal election laws, corporations vastly increased their advocacy budgets, with trade organizations spending millions of dollars in soft money on issue ad campaigns in congressional districts. And thanks to the growing number of associations whose executives are beholden to DeLay or Santorum, these campaigns are increasingly put in the service of GOP candidates and causes. Efforts like the one PhRMA made on behalf of Bush's Medicare plan have accompanied every major administration initiative. Many of them have been run out of the offices of top Republican lobbyists such as Ed Gillespie, whose recent elevation to chairman of the Republican National Committee epitomizes the new unity between party and K Street. Such is the GOP's influence that it has been able to marshal on behalf of party objectives not just corporate lobbyists, but the corporations themselves. During the Iraq war, for instance, the media conglomerate Clear Channel Communications Inc. had its stations sponsor pro-war rallies nationwide and even banned the Dixie Chicks, who had criticized White House policy, from its national play list.

That last point gives some sense of where the K Street strategy leads: if you can demand political tribute from trade associations, it follows that you ought to demand the same from the businesses behind them, and that extends not only to their donations but to their behavior more generally. Lobbies are bad enough when they're trying to get special favors from government (as distinct, I hasten to add, from purely defense measures against competitors who seek to annex the power of government to their own ends), but once lobbies have been inverted to enforce party disciplines on businesses and, by extension, ordinary life, we're dealing with something that goes far beyond politics as usual and simple corruption.

Is extortion too strong a word? Here's another excerpt from the Washington Monthly. You be the judge:

One seminal moment, never before reported, occurred in 1996 when Haley Barbour, who was chairman of the Republican National Committee, organized a meeting of the House leadership and business executives. "They assembled several large company CEOs and made it clear to them that they were expected to purge their Washington offices of Democrats and replace them with Republicans," says a veteran steel lobbyist. The Republicans also demanded more campaign money and help for the upcoming election. The meeting descended into a shouting match, and the CEOs, most of them Republicans, stormed out.

Ironically, to the extent that the K Street strategy has succeeded, it has helped ensure that the current crop of lobbying scandals would overwhelmingly implicate Republicans. Having driven out the competition, Republicans cannot get much cover by pointing to equally corrupt practices on the part of the Democrats. They're plenty corrupt, too, but during the Bush era they've had little opportunity to show just how far their tendencies in that direction run.

Addendum: One Democrat who has given his party some representation in the recent spate of lobbying scandals is William Jefferson.

What Really Happened to Goss?

The Sunday Times of London speculates on reasons for his departure:

The timing is certainly curious, coming hard on the heels of the CIA’s confirmation last week that Kyle “Dusty” Foggo, the number three in the nation’s spy centre who was hand-picked by Goss, had attended poker games at the Watergate and Westin Grand hotels in Washington with Brent Wilkes, a defence contractor and close boyhood friend.

Wilkes is under investigation for allegedly providing Randy “Duke” Cunningham, a disgraced Republican congressman, with prostitutes, limousines and free hotel suites.

The net is also closing in on Foggo, who is being investigated by the FBI over the award to Wilkes of a $3m contract to supply bottled water and other goods to CIA operatives in Iraq and Afghanistan. Although Foggo has admitted playing poker with Wilkes, he insists that no prostitutes were present.

A former senior CIA official said this weekend that he had been told by a trusted source inside the agency that Goss, 67, had attended one of the poker games. The CIA has denied it. “Goss has repeatedly denied being there, so if it were to come out that he was, he is finished,” the former official said.


First there was Randy "Duke" Cunningham, the California Republican congressman bribed by defense contractors Brent Wilkes (allegedly) and Mitchell Wade (admittedly). Now we're beginning to see just how far this story goes — Cunningham was about as much of an isolated incident as Abu Ghraib was the result of a few "bad apples." If you've been following the news this weekend, you know that collateral damage from the scandal seems to have hastened CIA Director Porter Goss's departure and appears to implicate the CIA's number three man, Kyle Foggo, directly. This New York Times piece nicely sums up the story so far. The latest twist involves defense contractors throwing poker parties for congressmen and Department of Homeland Security employees (among others) at some of Washington's tonier hotels — parties that included prostitutes. TPM Muckraker has an extensive file on the scandal, or complex of scandals, they're calling "Hookergate." (Though the hookers, so far, are the least remarkable thing about the affair.)

Democrats Supporting Censure

The Daily Kos has a list:

Daniel Akaka
Max Baucus
Byron Dorgan
Dick Durbin
Dianne Feinstein
Daniel Inouye
Jim Jeffords
Ted Kennedy
John Kerry
Herb Kohl
Mary Landrieu
Carl Levin
Joe Lieberman
Blanche Lincoln
Barbara Mikulski
Patty Murray
Jack Reed
Harry Reid
Jay Rockefeller
Chuck Schumer
Ron Wyden

Didn’t know there was so much support for condemning Bush’s illegal warrantless wiretapping? There isn’t. That’s a list of supporters for censuring Bill Clinton, circa 1998.