WASHINGTON, Sept. 3, 2015 – Every presidential administration, congressional class and bureaucracy has had its share of scandals over the years going back to 1891, when U.S. Federal District Attorney John Hicklin Hall (R) was put on trial for failing to prosecute land companies engaging in fraudulent activities.
Hicklin was also prosecuted for using his knowledge of illegal activities to blackmail his political opponents. Men, and more recently women, elected to leadership roles have been brought up on criminal charges, including mail fraud, wire fraud, bribery, conspiracy to commit money laundering, money laundering, conflict of interest, tax fraud, unlawful gratuity, extortion, racketeering and making false statements.
Many were prosecuted and adjudicated guilty, then sentenced.
History is replete with names of convicted politicians who once held honorable titles such as senator, governor and judge; Sen. Joseph R. Burton (R), Sen. John Hipple Mitchell (R), Secretary of the Interior Albert Fall (R), John H. Hoeppel, D-Calif., James M. Curley, D-Mass., and Andrew J. May, D-Ky., all fell from the political pedestal.
More recently we have had people at the top of the food chain go down, and infamously so, such as former Vice President Spiro Agnew (R), former Attorney General John N. Mitchell (R), Deputy Assistant United States Secretary of the Navy Wade Sanders (D), Jesse Jackson, Jr., D-Ill., and Laura Richardson, D-Calif.
And let us not forget Gen, David Petraeus (R), director of the Central Intelligence Agency.
This is proof positive that this country has gone after corrupted politicians and made them pay the piper. But there remains that special group of elites who are all too often given a pass, or if they are punished, it is tantamount to a half-hearted slap on the wrist.
Under the Obama administration only a select few have gotten that call to appear before Congress or in the marble chambers of justice. Some have pleaded the Fifth. Others have testified with attitude. Many appear to be untouchable.
Lois Lerner and her IRS scandal are one example of an untouchable. This public servant went after the tea party with a vengeance, using the IRS as a political weapon to intimidate and harass conservative groups. Only recently was it discovered that the former Tax Exempt Organizations Division chief was conducting government business on a secret personal email account she created under a phony name, “Toby Miles.”
Is she rotting in jail or even concerned about the threat of serving time? Lerner was held in contempt of Congress in connection with her refusal to testify regarding the matter before a congressional committee, and that was all.
Of course, Hillary Clinton is the ultimate government poster girl for the now infamous ‘computer server’ scandal and the Benghazi debacle. Is she facing the music though? Hardly. The former First Lady seems adept at tap dancing her way through inquiries such as the ones she finds herself in. But few believe she will be held fully accountable for her role in any of this, no more than her husband Bill Clinton was held accountable for his womanizing ways.
With the Clintons, there is always a fall guy. There used to be a saying in America: “Ignorance of the law is not an excuse for breaking the law.” Like yesterday’s garbage, it has gone by the wayside.
This brings us to improprieties conducted at the state level. According to historians and political scientists, a total of 19 governors in U.S. history have resigned amidst a scandal, have been impeached and removed by a state legislature or have been kicked out by other legal means for one transgression or another.
So, even at the state level, there are dire consequences for walking the fine line between what is legal and what is illegal. But much like the elites at the federal level, who are deemed untouchable, there are those at the state level who seem to be just as untouchable. The scandal below is a prime example of how some people in government are held accountable and others are not.
And it demonstrates how some who are innocent of any wrongdoing are often thrown under the bus by those who are quick to absolve themselves when their names pop up on the scandal columns.
Case in point, Gov. Rick Scott of Florida and his state’s attorney general agreed to pay $700,000 to end a public records lawsuit against himself and his staff. Sounds great. Justice is once again served. Or is it? Actually, this is the first time in state history that a sitting governor and attorney general have been sued successfully for violations of Florida’s public records laws.
His actions involved violating the state’s open meeting laws when they allowed staff to use back channels to oust former Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Gerald Bailey with no public discussion or vote.
Now, let us take a look back at what was implied, by then first-term Gov. Scott, when his first lieutenant governor, Jennifer Carroll, was forced to resign after a scandal broke out involving Internet cafes. Her resignation was spurred by an investigation into the Allied Veterans of the World, which was once represented by Carroll.
The former lieutenant governor’s ties to the company came into question when she was in the legislature and proposed a bill that seemed to benefit Internet cafes.
Maintaining her innocence, Carroll was never charged in the internet café scandal and was more recently absolved of any wrongdoing in that case. Sadly, she was pressured into resigning by Scott, based on baseless allegations and innuendo. The former lieutenant governor described her exit from office as a “knee jerk reaction” by Scott. Separate from this well publicized scandal, Carroll agreed to pay a $1,000 fine to resolve allegations she did not properly report income from consulting work that led to her sudden resignation.
Absent from this resolution was intent to commit a crime. It appeared to be an honest oversight on her part and those involved with her firm.
In Scott’s case, there was obvious intent to skirt the law, yet he remains in office. The question is why, considering what happened to his lieutenant governor based on a perceived guilt by association. In addition to his lax adherence to Florida’s constitution, the $700,000 fine Scott and State Attorney General Pam Bondi have agreed to pay is being footed using taxpayer money.
This is a man who is very wealthy, with a net worth of $157 million. He is considered the richest governor in Florida’s history. But now, it is the taxpayer who is being left with the tab as a result of seven public records lawsuits alleging Scott and several members of his staff violated state law when they created email accounts to shield their communications from state public records laws and then withheld the documents.
Wealthy or not, when are we going to hold our leaders personally accountable for their actions, even those we consider the elite? The Founding Fathers meant for the United States to be a nation of laws, meaning you break the law, you pay the price for it, not the taxpayer.
This is tantamount to a child emperor who gets in trouble but his whipping boy gets the punishment. Where is the public outcry? Where are the checks and balances? Where is the accountability?
Seems like in a country where no one is above the law, it does not apply to the Clintons and the Lerners and the Scotts.