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Thursday, December 04, 2003

Mr. Smith Gets Bribed in Washington
Nick Smith is a member of Congress from Michigan. Recently, Congress passed a controversial bill to provide some prescription drug coverage to seniors. A lot of congressmen felt it was a bad bill, for various reasons. Nick Smith was one of them. So far, nothing shocking.

But, Timothy Noah reports here in Slate magazine that the political leadership of his own party tried to twist Mr. Smith's arm and get him to vote for the bill against his better judgment. Mr. Smith is retiring, so he may not care if he angers the House leadership. But, his son is running for his seat and may be in for a tough race. So, corporate interests told Nick that they would funnel $100,000 to his son's campaign if he voted their way on the bill.

Timothy Noah suggests that this is amounts to an attempt to bribe Mr. Smith. It is unseemly indeed if special interests were trying to sway a legislator's better judgment by offering something he valued. But really, this misses the deeper problem.

Nick Smith didn't take the bribe. He voted against the bill and doesn't seem to regret it. The real crime against democracy may be yet to come, as those same special interests may now give the $100,000 to defeat Nick's son. Duke Cunningham, a California politician, told Nick that his son was now "dead meat."

So, this is a race to watch. If Nick's son is as honest and upstanding as his father, there's a decent chance that the big money boys will make sure he never makes it to Washington. Instead, he'll be replaced by some corporate stooge who will be more than happy to toe the line of his party leadership, whether bribed or not. This is how money undermines our democracy in a way far more profound than petty bribery. We are replacing honest men with groveling politicians, and our governments integrity is in shambles as a result.

Arnold's Out of State Fundraising to Pay off His Personal Loans
See this KCRA Channel 3 story that voices my concerns with Arnold Schwarzenegger's fundraising to pay off personal loans to his campaign -- an apparent violation of existing campaign finance law.

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