I first met Chuck McGee on the campus of the University of New Hampshire. I was a washed up Division III football player just transferred in from Pennsylvania and nurturing a severe drinking problem that would plague me for the next decade. He was a surly, burly Marine with a hard edge and cynical worldview. We became fast friends.
Chuck and I shared an interest in Republican politics. We ran the College Republicans together, volunteered on campaigns together, held signs that said mean things about Bill Clinton together.
Chuck hadn't had much of a religious upbringing. I recall thinking how much more conservative I was than he. If memory serves, he was even pro-choice back then. He was a blood 'n' guts conservative, as so many military men are, with a kill 'em all, let God sort 'em out mentality.
Over time, that would change. Chuck met a woman in Colorado who set him straight. She helped bring him close to Jesus. And now, still, Chuck can be seen at Catholic prayer groups all around the greater Concord, New Hampshire, area.
Throughout his brief career in Republican politics, Chuck earned a reputation for an absolutely Herculean work ethic. Chuck got jobs done. Not often the most politic of politicians, and even he would say he's no brain surgeon (though no dummy either), Chuck just seemed to make things happen.
I mentioned Chuck's cynical outlook. It only grew more cynical as the years went on. It's impossible to spend any length of time in the political businesses and not have your ideals grow moldy from lack of application and your sensibilities grow calloused from constant offense. In Chuck McGee's case it manifested in a shortsighted, stupid decision, for which he is paying dearly.
During the closing days of the 2002 election, Chuck hired a phone vendor to flood the firefighters union and the Democratic Party headquarters with thousands of phone calls, thereby jamming their phone lines and rendering their get-out-the-vote operation useless. It was a clever scheme. It also, apparently, was illegal. And Chuck has been sentenced to seven months in a federal prison for this ill-conceived scheme.
It would be nice to think that Chuck McGee's swift and aggressive prosecution is the result of a new level of seriousness on the part of those authorities responsible for policing political shenanigans. Enforcing existing laws has always been a better deterrent than passing new ones. Look no further than the ridiculous McCain-Feingold campaign finance law to judge the efficacy of that statement.
And yet, a paranoid devil on my shoulder is whispering into my ear. He tells me that there exists a double standard on these matters; one that grants special dispensation to Democrats and Democrat-affiliated groups. For example, we now know with certainty that Democrat politicians benefited mightily from Election Day malfeasance last November. According to a report issued last week by the American Center for Voting Rights:
... ACT, ACORN and the NAACP Project Vote, were engaged in a coordinated "Get Out the Vote" effort. A significant component of this effort appears to be registering individuals who would cast ballots for the candidate supported by these organizations. This voter registration effort was not limited to the registration of legal voters but, criminal investigations and news reports suggest, that the voter registration effort also involved the registration of thousands of fictional voters such as the now infamous Jive F. Turkey, Sr., Dick Tracy and Mary Poppins. Those individuals registering these fictional voters were reportedly paid not just money to do so but were, in at least one instance, paid in crack cocaine.
Despite the chilling revelations in the report, not a single network news program has bothered to cover it. Nor has the Washington Post, the New York Times or any other major paper.
Moreover, a modest level of outrage greeted the unimaginative thuggery of two Democratic Party goons who slashed the tires on over twenty GOP get-out-the-vote vans on election eve, 2004, in Wisconsin. The outrage, sadly, has abated.
Meanwhile, all the action in Washington seems to focus on the subject of tightening so-called loopholes in the McCain-Feingold law, the question of restricting free speech on the Internet and legislative measures to grant convicted felons the right to vote. Perhaps former President Jimmy Carter and former Secretary of State James Baker, who have been tapped to co-chair a task force of American University's Center for Democracy and Election Management, can repair our elections. Upon the announcement of their project to make recommendations on how to fix voting in America, President Carter said, "We will try to define an electoral system for the 21st century that will make Americans proud again." But then, half a breath later, he started in with the well-worn talking points about waiting lines in black voting precincts. Serious election reformers should look away.
I have a nagging feeling that my friend will be a lonely name on the list of political operatives convicted for breaking the law.