Thursday, December 04, 2003
Well, I care. That's of course why I even bother to pass on this story.
By Timothy Noah
Monday 01 December 2003
Rep. Nick Smith, R-Mich., says that sometime late Nov. 21 or early in the morning Nov. 22, somebody on the House floor threatened to redirect campaign funds away from his son Brad, who is running to succeed him, if he didn't support the Medicare prescription bill. This according to the Associated Press. Robert Novak further reports,
On the House floor, Nick Smith was told business interests would give his son $100,000 in return for his father's vote. When he still declined, fellow Republican House members told him they would make sure Brad Smith never came to Congress. After Nick Smith voted no and the bill passed, [Rep.] Duke Cunningham of California and other Republicans taunted him that his son was dead meat.
Speaking through Chief of Staff Kurt Schmautz, Smith assured Chatterbox that Novak's account is "basically accurate." That means Smith was an eyewitness to a federal crime. United States Code, Title 18, Section 201, "Bribery of public officials and witnesses," states that under federal law, a person commits bribery if he
directly or indirectly, corruptly gives, offers or promises anything of value to any public official or person who has been selected to be a public official, or offers or promises any public official or any person who has been selected to be a public official to give anything of value to any other person or entity [italics Chatterbox's], with intent to influence any official act. …
Promising to direct $100,000 to Rep. Smith's son's campaign clearly meets the legal definition of bribery. The only question, then, is who to prosecute. The AP had Smith attributing threats to support his son's opponent to "House GOP leaders," but that was a paraphrase, and it is possible Smith meant someone else when he spoke of an actual offer of $100,000. We know House Speaker Dennis Hastert spent a lot of time that night trying to win over Smith. The trade publication CongressDaily spotted Hastert around 4 a.m., about an hour into the extended Medicare roll call, placing his arm around Smith and gesturing. Twenty minutes later, CongressDaily saw Hastert work Smith over again, this time with Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson. At 5:30 a.m., with less than half an hour left until the final tally, CongressDaily saw Hastert and Thompson give it one final try. The Washington Post's David Broder, in his Nov. 23 column, wrote that House aides "recounted that Hastert said Smith's help was vital to the party and the president—a fitting gift at the end of a long career—and suggested it would also help Smith's son, who plans to run for the seat." That's pretty close to Novak's version.
Ain't govment great?