Monday, September 26, 2005

It's the Corruption, Stupid

So we've got cronyism rampant in the White House, a widening ethics scandal spreading from Jack Abramoff to a number of key Republicans, and now Bill Frist's clearance sale of his stocks. There are so many ethics and corruption scandals cropping up in Republican circles that even the media is starting to notice:
Two federal inquiries into Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist's stock sales have handed Democrats a chance to broaden their long-stated claim that Republicans push ethical boundaries and focus on laws that help the rich, political analysts said yesterday.

Until now, such accusations have centered on the House and White House. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (Tex.) has been chastised three times by the chamber's ethics committee, and a Texas grand jury recently indicted a political action committee he had organized. The Bush administration's top federal procurement official, David H. Safavian, was arrested last week on charges of obstructing a criminal investigation into lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who has close ties to DeLay and other prominent GOP lawmakers.

Now, with the revelation that federal prosecutors and the Securities and Exchange Commission are looking into Frist's sale of hospital stock shortly before its value fell, Democrats are expanding their ethics accusations into the Senate's GOP leadership ranks.

Activists in both parties agree it is much too early to say whether Frist (R-Tenn.) engaged in insider trading, a charge that could cripple his 2008 presidential hopes. But the mere launch of inquiries by the SEC and the Justice Department allows Democrats to claim that both House and Senate majority leaders operate under ethical clouds.

"It is a drip, drip, drip," said former House majority leader Tony Coelho (D-Calif.), who knows the corrosive power of ethics charges. Coelho, who resigned in 1989 following accusations about a loan deal, said, "With DeLay and now Frist, it's a buildup of arrogance of power. . . . With [President] Bush's numbers down, this could be a very negative thing for the Republicans."
If the Democrats don't pound the corruption issue every single day of the 2006 campaign, then it's official that they're being led by retarded eunuchs. The GOP turned a bogus check-bouncing scandal in the House into a cause for throwing the bums out back in '92 and '94, but now we're talking about much bigger problems for much bigger politicians. I mean, when's the last time the Senate Majority Leader and the House Majority Leader were both involved in ethics scandals at the same time? Much less at the same time the president of the same party was sinking faster than Rosemary Clooney in the Poseidon Adventure?

And please don't tell me that voters won't care about Frist's actions. He did exactly what Martha Stewart did, and what's good for the tarragon-infused, soy-glazed goose is certainly good for the gander.

UPDATE: The LA Times has a nice piece on Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a watchdog group that has just unveiled its list of the 13 most corrupt politicians in Washington. Tellingly, 11 of the 13 are Republicans.

17 comments:

Smitty said...

The problem with the lack of Dem response is as a Democratic Pollster put it this morning...that essentially, with no real leadership and no clear understanding of who they want to challenge the Republican machine next election, the Dems are hoplessly lost in trying to take advantage of the targets the Republicans seem to hand them every single day. All you've heard is silence from the Dem party, because it currently has no boss and no direction. The Republicans stand to get away with all of this.

Otto Man said...

Agreed. This is where Dean needs to step up.

ORF said...

Sorry, Otto, but the exact reason the electorate will refuse to really care about this is because it involves the stock market, Martha mimicry or no. Speaking of retarded eunuchs, people in this country just shut the hell down when you start talking stocks because they do not understand it and furthermore do not feel the burn of any transgressions. It's all too theoretical for them. Crap, even the word "theoretical" has too many syllables to bother with. The reason Martha got stuffed is because people were tired of her and ready to bag her for anything in order to get her to stopping making the rest of us feel bad about our failed attempts to properly bed nasturtiums and azaleas. The fact that she got in trouble for stock-related activity was non-essential.

As for Frist, well, he can just hop into some pulpit, sweat some blood and beg forgiveness from his voter base and they'll all pray for his mortal soul and his sins will be expiated forthwith.

Otto Man said...

I think it will stick, ORF, for a couple reasons. First, the stock market boom of the late 90s and the Stewart scandal means that more people have a grasp fo these things than you might expect. And second, the Frist scandal also involves a fairly easily proven lie -- he said he didn't know what was in the trust, shortly after inquiring about it and then dumping it. People understand lies.

But again, as with the check-bouncing brouhaha, what's important here isn't people grasping the details of a scandal, it's them getting the impression that there's a lot of shady stuff going on. Once that sticks, it's impossible to overcome. (See Clinton, Bill; "scandals" of.)

Studiodave said...

Sadly, I don't think there is anything wrong in Frist's sale given it was in a blind trust and he was simply lucky with the timing.

I think the much bigger issue is that the incumbent GOP's are not willing to cut the pork in their own legislation (Highway bill). I understand their reluctance to raise taxes - but this pork thing goes right to their raison d'etre.

McCain was on the Sunday circuit complaining about it.

In this sense, absolute power does corrupt abolutely....

Mr Furious said...

Sure, Dean should pipe up on this, but he's been saying this for three fucking years. What needs to actually happen is a unified message that they can ALL repeat and bludgeon the republicans to death.

As far as any casualties on our side, I say "fuck 'em." First, it'll be 5 to 1 Republicans, and I've got no use for corruption from either side. This is our issue, let's freaking run on it.

Mr Furious said...

Dave, it doesn't matter. Kill Frist with this anyway. The distinction of what a blind trust is, is precisely where people start tuning out, "What the hell is a blind trust? He dumped his stock...you can't tell ME he didn't know..."

Hammer this story home, make Frist PROVE his innocence—he will suffer all the same. I think his cover is probably a load of crap. Even if he ends up clean, frankly, I don't give a shit.

Mr Furious said...

Follow-up, Dave:

the problem with the pork approach (which I think is a good strategy, BTW) is that it depends on people voting against their own congressperson. If the rest of us could all vote out the asshole building the Bridge to Nowhere in Alaska, he'd be toast. The problem is the people who benefit from that largess are the ones we expect to shitcan this clown. And so it goes across the country. Folks in Iowa might be all excited about an indoor fucking rainforest...

I agree, hammer on the pork, but you can't really depend on that as your only weapon as a challenger..."My Opponent, Senator Fatcat over there, has lavished this state with untold millions in Federal money! I intend to cut that in HALF!"

Somehow, I'm not sure how that will resonate...

Mr Furious said...

From the WaPo:

Republicans expressed confidence in Frist and his ability to weather the controversy. "Democrats will try to make a lot out of this and pounce on whatever they can," said Nicholas E. Calio, a former aide to both Presidents Bush. "To me, it's inconceivable that he [Frist] would sell stock based on inside information. He doesn't need the money."

Um, did Martha Stewart need the 40K her stock dump netted her? She lost $85 million in net worth because of that scandal. Not a savvy move.

It's never about the need it's about power and a sense of invulnerability. People at this level start to feel like they are above it all, and they will never face consequences. Couple that with the fact that they know more than everyone else, and need to micromanage. Of course Frist doesn't need to risk his whole career over a 15 percent drop in share value—but that doesn't mean he didn't do it.

I hope this is the best defense they come up with...

Studiodave said...

Dean's strategy has been to build up local state organizations. FOr example, here in GA, we had no one working full time of state issues.

Also, if I were Dean, I would keep out of the public eye given that the "Dean scream" still is played on my wacky sportstalk guys in the am. Most gastropods will know him only for that.

Finally, my point on Frist etc, wasn't on how to run on issues - simply my 2 cents among friends.

I dislike him thoroughly - I even like Trent Lott more than him - and that is saying something....

Otto Man said...

As far as any casualties on our side, I say "fuck 'em." First, it'll be 5 to 1 Republicans, and I've got no use for corruption from either side. This is our issue, let's freaking run on it.

Agreed. Clean house and let the chips fall where they may. I love Maxine Waters, but if she's dirty, she should get the door with the rest.

And I've got to disagree with StudioDave, along the lines Furious has already proposed. If the best defense the GOP can come up with is, "hey voters, we're just too freaking rich to keep track of it all!", well, I don't think that's going to play well.

In short, the Dems have very little to lost in pressing this issue hard and fast. Worst case scenario is that it helps reinforce the rightful image of the GOP as rich and out-of-touch; best case scenario is that we get a blue wave in 2006. (And if you don't think that's possible, SD, go back and compare all this with the minor scandals that led to a red wave in '92 and '94.)

And yeah, Dean's been out there, but we need to see some coordination with congressional leaders. Pelosi and Reid are important, but on the electoral strategy, the key would be the DSCC and DCCC. I can't remember who's in charge of the DSCC, but Rahm Emanuel, an old Clintonite, is heading the DCCC. He's kicking ass in the fund-raising department, and I think he's got the political savvy to put that money to good use.

Studiodave said...

Otto, you just want me to have that abortion, don't you....

Otto Man said...

It's the sensible thing to do....

InanimateCarbonRod said...

"My Opponent, Senator Fatcat over there, has lavished this state with untold millions in Federal money! I intend to cut that in HALF!"
I'm crying here...

Mr Furious said...

It's a tough call with Dean. To a certain extent what he says is treated as shrill by most of the MSM and it impacts his effectiveness as messenger. On the other hand, I don't care what those on the Right and their lackeys in the media think about anything.

The Republicans don't stop and worry about what their opponents think and neither hould we. But we DO have to worry about what swing voters think, to a degree. Let Dean keep going on the Meet the Press gigs and deliver the Party line (he's improved tremedously), but more importantly, let him (and others) come up with a cohesive line of attack that ALL the trops can carry out.

Right about now, there should be a steady parade of Dems lined up on Sunday shows (and other slots) to slam the Republicans on this. If the Liebermans and Bidens aren't willing to do, get some Obamas out there who will.

If they let this stuff whither and die on the vine, I am really going to be pissed.

Otto Man said...

I just shuddered at the thought of a plural Liebermans.

It'd be like the Oompa-Loompas from the original "Willy Wonka" movie.

ORF said...

No no no. What NEEDS to happen is a fissure in the Republican ranks. Someone needs to step up and say "J'accuse!" to his fellow Republicans and then hang his head in sorrow at the fact that the rest of the Party has allowed the bad apples to keep fraternizing with everyone else. Of course, it wouldn't hurt if the Dems grew a pair. Or 44.