Want to get out of jury duty? Just say you support Public Citizen!

Holman

In one of the most startling and biased jury surveys I have ever seen, the federal district court of D.C. is identifying “good government” people for possible disqualification from jury service in the Kevin Ring corruption scandal case.

Kevin Ring was an instrumental player on Team Abramoff, smack dab in the middle of the corruption conspiracy that so far has resulted in the conviction of one member of Congress and almost two dozen lobbyists and congressional staffers. Ring served as Rep. John Doolittle’s chief of staff — Doolittle was part of the “Ney, DeLay and Doolittle” congressional team that fought vociferously against limits on money in politics (all three have since been forced out of Congress because of corruption scandals) — before Ring moved on to the riches found in lobbying for Jack Abramoff. Ring appears to have played the revolving door well for Abramoff, his clients and, most importantly, himself. Ring is facing a whole series of charges of fraud and conspiracy stemming from his days of giving gifts, free meals, tickets to sporting events, travel and even a $96,000 part-time job for Doolittle’s wife as part of the influence-peddling strategy of Abramoff on behalf of their clients. Oh, yes, and Ring pocketed a personal fortune from Abramoff’s tribal clients in return.

If it sounds like I would not qualify as a juror in this case, you are probably correct. But nor would you, if you support Public Citizen or any of the “good government” groups who support openness and integrity in government. Though we feel a little snubbed because “Public Citizen” is not specifically identified on question 44 of the jury survey, we are clearly implicated. One of the likely disqualifying questions is:

Question 44: “HAVE YOU DONATED MONEY TO OR OTHERWISE SUPPORTED ORGANIZATIONS THAT ADVOCATE OPEN OR ACCOUNTABLE GOVERNMENT SUCH AS COMMON CAUSE, CITIZENS FOR RESPONSIBILITY AND ETHICS IN WASHINGTON, OR TAXPAYERS FOR COMMON SENSE?”

Reminds me of the questions posed to Arlo Guthrie that disqualified him from military service during our invasion of Vietnam. His conviction for littering cast doubt in the minds of the military whether Arlo was fit for service. He was given a questionnaire to fill out, and as Arlo describes it: “I turned over the piece of paper, and there, there on the other side, in the middle of the other side, away from everything else on the other side, in parentheses, capital letters, quotated, read the following words:

“KID, HAVE YOU REHABILITATED YOURSELF?”

So next time you are called for jury service and you do not want to serve, either sing a bar of Alice’s Restaurant Massacre with full orchestration and five part harmony — or proclaim that you are a member of Public Citizen — and walk right out.

Better yet — serve on that jury and teach the court a lesson in integrity.

Craig Holman is the government affairs lobbyist for Public Citizen.