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Another Day, Another Scandal – On the "High Ethical Standards" of a Republican Operative

While we have noted in this blog that there are at least a few Democrats embroiled in ethics scandals, a fact that has partially undercut their ability (or willingness) to attack what they call the Republican “culture of corruption,” one can hardly read the news on any given day without coming across yet another example of Republican operatives or elected officials who are neck deep in corruption – and apparently don’t see anything wrong with it.

Today’s example is the sentencing in a U.S. District Court today of former Republican National Committee regional political director James Tobin, who was found guilty of criminally violating federal communications law for his participation in the scheme to disrupt Democratic party phone lines during the 2002 New Hampshire election. According to the Washington Post, that (illegal) effort helped Republican John Sununu win his Senate seat by a margin of 19,151 votes.

What is most remarkable about this is not simply that the illegal scheme happened at all, but that the Republican National Committee went on to pay at least $2.8 million for Tobin’s legal defense. Could there be any connection between these payments and evidence brought up during Tobin’s trial showing that he made no less than 22 phone calls to the White House on election day, starting just two hours after the illegal phone jamming was shut down?

The RNC has denied any complicity in the illegal activity, but they have also been unwilling, in the Post article or in any other this author has read, to categorically denounce the phone jamming scheme or distance themselves from those involved. As Craig Shirley of the Republican public affairs firm Shirley & Bannister wrote in a Washington Post commentary, by covering Tobin’s legal fees, “the GOP appears to sanction and institutionalize corruption within the party.”

You can say that again.

Federal prosecutors are seeking an 18-24 month prison term for Tobin, but his lawyers argue that he has suffered enough already, saying – and I’m not making this up – that “Mr. Tobin is a man with high ethical standards…. Seeing his reputation destroyed… and a profession [politics] he loves made unavailable to him has caused him great pain.”

High ethical standards? Great pain? There was no mention, of course, of the pain caused to voters who were unable to vote because of Tobin’s illegal activity, or the pain of Granite State citizens in knowing that the democratic process was undermined in their election.

Apparently, according to some Republicans, simply getting caught is punishment enough. I hope they’ll excuse me if I decline to hold my breath while waiting for Bush, the RNC or Republican congressional leaders to condemn Tobin for his crimes.

-Gordon Clark