Archive for August, 2007
What can I say about Larry Craig, Republican Senator from Idaho who was busted for soliciting a male undercover cop in the Minneapolis airport? I could laugh at the hapless old fart who did this while his home state newspaper was investigating him and interviewing men who claimed they had been solicited by him or actually had sex with him. I could cringe at the unintentional double entendre at the beginning of his “I’m not gay” press conference yesterday, “I’d like to thank all of you for coming out today.” I could express anger at this “family values” conservative who voted and spoke out consistently against equal treatment for gays and lesbians – in employment, in the military, in marriage.
And I’ve done all those things. Believe me. But listening to the narrative of his life just makes me sad. Sad for him and for his wife and children. Sad for the life he might have had if he’d been born in a different time.
Some of you may remember the kerfuffle down here in District One (the district created to give blacks a voice on the Mobile County Commission) when, after the district’s representative was elected to be Mobile’s first black mayor, it was discovered that per state law, Riley was supposed to appoint his replacement. Riley appointed a black Republican named Juan Chastang, apparently under the assumption that any black face would do for the heavily Democratic district. Dems immediately cried foul, and with some merit; Chastang didn’t even live in the district, but somehow hastily acquired a rented “residence” which, as a photograph in the paper showed, made use of a padlock to secure its front door. Hey, things are rough in District One! The case went through various levels of dismissal and appeal, which I don’t remember and don’t have time to look up; you’re not really interested and besides I have to get to the grocery. You read a suburban housewife blog, you take what you can get.
Anyway, the Federal court eventually decided that since Riley is white, and had been elected by a white-majority vote, no one he appointed could be expected to represent the black citizens of District One. I thought this was dumb; does this mean that nothing else the governor does applies to citizens of District One, either? Don’t tell me to pray for rain, white man—I live in District One! But by this time Chastang had succeeded in getting himself embroiled in a big mess involving United Cerebral Palsy, a Ciara concert, and $50,000 of the county’s money down the drain, so black and white alike were happy to be getting him out of there any way they could.
A primary date was duly set, and six candidates jumped into the race: Chastang and another Republican, and four Democrats. The Democrats included a former commissioner who had to leave office last time after he was convicted of extortion; a former city councilman who was defeated in the last election after a scandal about tennis “scholarships;” a woman who is on the city council of Prichard, a city perpetually on the brink of bankruptcy; and a woman who worked for the Commission for fourteen years and currently is a lawyer for the city of Mobile. I met the last candidate, Merceria Ludgood, Sunday afternoon and came away bursting with enthusiasm; she’s smart, hardworking, and totally lacking in that slickness even local politicans seem to exude. When Merceria uses words like “honesty” and “integrity” you feel like they actually mean something.
The Mobile Register has given the election (which affects 1/3 of Mobile county) very little coverage, and did not endorse a candidate. My neighbor speculated that they couldn’t bring themselves to endorse Chastang, but didn’t like to diss Riley’s appointee. But I found it odd that they didn’t at least mention the tennis scandal about Sullivan, considering that they were the ones who raked it up in the first place.
They did, however, run a story this morning listing the results. Merceria won the Democratic primary—and with over 400 more votes than all other five candidates combined. Chastang is described as getting “84% of the Republican vote”—that would be 651, compared to Ludgood’s 3,904. But he’s not worried, because, “When the general election comes, people will vote for the candidate who’s best for the county, and I’m going to be ahead in that game.”
Yeah, right. Poor guy, I guess having to fiddle with that padlock every day has made him delusional. It would be nice if he would gracefully concede and save the county some money—the primary alone cost about $90,000. That way his last act as commissioner would actually benefit the county.
UPDATE: This post has been edited.
Republican political consultant Ralph Gonzalez, who died last week in a double murder/suicide, had some interesting Alabama connections. His company, The Strategum Group, listed the following Alabama politicians as clients:
- Jefferson County Commissioner (and former State Rep.) Jim Carns
- Attorney General Troy King
- Harold Sachs, candidate for State Senate
- Sen. Scott Beason, R-Gardendale
- Phillip Wood, candidate for Court of Civil Appeals
- Circuit Judge Steve King
Beason happily paid Gonzalez $3,144 for fliers used in an attempt to smear Democratic candidate Gloria Dolbare in a 2005 special election for House District 65:
Beason said it was for printing and mailing the committee’s flier. The flier stated that Democrat Gloria Dolbare of Bigbee had not signed a Christian Coalition pledge to support a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriages in the state. The flier said: “Let Gloria Dolbare know God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve!”
This was, of course, before the Alabama legislature re-banned gay marriage, thus ensuring that every heterosexual marriage will be happy and trouble-free.
There’s lots of speculation on the Internet that Gonzalez was gay. I don’t know, but if he was, it makes me incredibly sad that he was willing to work for people who use gays and lesbians as scare tactics to win elections.
A couple of Gonzalez’s Florida clients tip the sleaze-o-meter, too. Rep. Tom Feeney is under investigation for alleged ties to Jack Abramoff and has been ranked in the top 20 most corrupt members of Congress by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. Former State Rep. Sheri McInvale and an aide were recently indicted on charges of stealing state money.
There’s been some attention in the blogosphere this weekend to an AP article detailing government punishment of whistleblowers –we’re talking military confinement and “aggressive” interrogation techniques, not lost jobs. It’s a must-read, but I’d suggest starting with some more background first, in particular “The Great Iraq Swindle”, which details the corruption and profiteering that has gone on from day one in Iraq.
If you’ve read Imperial Life in the Emerald City, or even the excerpts that were published elsewhere, you already know part of the story, but the articles referenced above pick up where it left off. Private contractors have made a fortune off the backs of the American people and to the detriment of our military, and they walk away with no accountability for the millions they’ve stolen or the lives they’ve destroyed. Meanwhile those who try to bring public attention to the corruption find themselves in the line of fire.
Go read, but I don’t recommend eating first. This will make you ill.
UPDATE: Gonzo just announced. It was a very brief speech, but he did manage to squeeze in a reference to protecting the rights and civil liverties of our citizens. I’m still laughing.
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales resigned on Friday, with the official announcement expected shortly. Loyal to the end, he fell on his sword rather than forcing Bush to fire him — or that’s probably what we’re supposed to think.
CNN says Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff is the top contender to replace Gonzales, while MSNBC is speculating that it may be Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) or — what a concept! — someone in the Justice Department who actually has some experience and inside knowledge of the mess there.
Bush is scheduled to speak from Crawford later this morning. I wonder if he plans to name his nominee today or just hold a love-fest with Fredo.
Another high-level Bush appointee gone. It must be August.
From the Fall 2007 issue of “The Key Reporter,” page 11 (“ΦΒΚ in the News”):
President Bushed announced May 30 that Bob Zoellick (Swarthmore College, 1975), former U.S. Deputy Secretary of State and U.S. Trade Representative, would replace Paul Wolfowitz (Cornell University, 1964) as World Bank President.
Sure, it looks like a typo. But that’s just because these super-smart people know how to be really subtle.
As best I can tell from the article, the Board only banned state legislators from working in the two-year college system. So, while I applaud the effort to end double-dipping, I wonder if it will hold up under a constitutional challenge.
The Alabama constitution isn’t exactly transparent when it comes to a lay person, so I’d appreciate any attorneys out there weighing in on this. Is it constitutionally okay to ban a sub-group of state employees from serving in the legislature? Would it be better if the ban covered anyone who works for the state or derives a significant portion of business revenue from state contracts? And (I’m sure this is really elementary to those of you who know the law), does a court challenge of a ban passed by a state agency work the same way as a court challenge of legislation? IIRC, an individual can’t challenge the constitutionality of a law unless that law has been enforced on the individual. Yet I see the AEA plans to file suit today.
Lots of questions, and I’m asking because I’d like to understand this situation better. On the face of it, clearly legislators should not be holding do-nothing state jobs that essentially pay them to be lobbyists-with-votes. And the double-dipping in the two-year system has been particularly egregious. But — not to get too clichéd here – shutting one door just means enterprising legislators, and those who want to influence them, will just find an open window.
Businesses, interest groups, and agencies that want to influence our legislators don’t need to hire them; a legislator can pick up, at a minimum, an extra $7,500 per lobbyist every year without reporting it.1 So the legislators who were using the two-year system as their own personal cash cow may be out of luck, but there’s nothing stopping those who are captive to other special interests from cashing in. And, to state the obvious, as long as we have a part-time legislature, most of those who serve will also have other employment. What prevents a corporation from hiring a legislator or two to be its own pet lobbyists?
Legislators who are unhappy with the two-year college employment ban are threatening to take the fight back to the legislature. Gee, I can’t tell you how excited I would be if they spent next year’s session (or possibly a fall special session) deadlocked over this. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if they’d come together and pass some comprehensive ethics reform with real teeth?
Yeah, I know. I’m not holding my breath, either.
1Lobbyists can spend up to $250 per day, per legislator, without any public reporting of their expenditures. If a legislator took the maximum contribution on each of the 30 allowed legislative days per year, that would add up to $7,500. If a lobbyist wanted to put the legislator on the annual payroll, as it were, the take rises to $65,000. That’s per lobbyist, and last I heard there were around three times as many lobbyists as legislators in Montgomery.