A choice of crooks

Boehner’s campaign slogan amounts to “I’m as clean as a Democrat, while my opponent is as dirty as a Republican.”

Looks as if the House Republicans face a choice between a new Majority Leader who tried to sneak a provision favorable to Phillip Morris into the big Homeland Security bill when he was dating a Phillip Morris lobbyist (whom he subsequently married) and a new Majority Leader who once passed out tobacco industry PAC checks to his colleagues on the floor of the House.

It looks as if John Boehner (of the tobacco PAC checks) is marginally the less crooked of the two. (Roy Blunt is truly a piece of work, as they say in Massachusetts.)

But if the GOP line is that any Democrat who took money from an Indian tribe for which Jack Abramoff lobbied is somehow just as dirty as Tom DeLay, then what are we to make of this?

Boehner’s political action committee has received $31,500 from Indian tribes represented by Abramoff, money Boehner strenuously maintains should in no way be connected to the lobbyist.

“I’ve never taken an Abramoff dollar,” he said.

Spokesman Don Seymour added that Boehner “doesn’t think Native American tribal groups should be dishonored simply for exercising their own political freedom.”

Boehner’s flack is right, of course. Taking money from Abramoff — which only Republicans did — is quite different from taking money from tribes that also hired Abramoff to lobby for them (which some Democrats did). But that being the case, the claim that both parties were on take can’t be sustained. So Boehner’s campaign slogan amounts to “I’m as clean as a Democrat, while my opponent is as dirty as a Republican.”

Update I note with gratified surprise that Rich Lowry of National Review is taking a realistic view of the scandal:

…this is, in its essence, a Republican scandal, and any attempt to portray it otherwise is a misdirection.

Abramoff is a Republican who worked closely with two of the country’s most prominent conservative activists, Grover Norquist and Ralph Reed. Top aides to the most important Republican in Congress, Tom DeLay (R., Tex.) were party to his sleazy schemes. The only people referred to directly in Abramoff’s recent plea agreement are a Republican congressmen and two former Republican congressional aides. The GOP members can make a case that the scandal reflects more the way Washington works than the unique perfidy of their party, but even this is self-defeating, since Republicans run Washington.

“A misdirection.” Precisely. William F. Buckley himself couldn’t have phrased it more elegantly, or more accurately.

Hat tip: Balloon Juice

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

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