The former Virginia governor might have his last laugh against Obama’s Justice Department.
Seven years into the Age of Obama, we’ve become used to, and in fact now expect, the application of federal law, or lack thereof, to depend on politics. Particularly when it comes to the president’s debauched Department of Justice.
Can there be any doubt about this? It began almost before the president even took office, with the decision to quash the prosecution of the New Black Panthers in Philadelphia on voter intimidation charges arising from the 2008 election, in a case that was about as open-and-shut as one could get and in fact had been won by the Bush Justice Department. Next came the decision to let the unindicted co-conspirators in the Holy Land Foundation terror-financing case skate.
Then came a whole host of famous scandals in which the administration and its Attorney General not only refused to prosecute its allies for clear violations of federal law but to openly boast no such prosecutions would be forthcoming — Fast And Furious, the IRS persecution of conservative groups, the targeting of Fox News’ James Rosen and the AP as terror suspects, then-HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius’s attempts to essentially solicit bribes from the insurance industry in an effort to kick-start the financing of Obamacare, the Pigford scandal, the multiple cases of malfeasance involved with the General Services Administration scandal, Solyndra, the Lisa Jackson-“Richard Windsor” e-mail affair, the violation of the War Powers Act that resulted in the attacks on Libya — and the blowback in Benghazi which resulted in the deaths of American ambassador Chris Stevens and three others in government service there, the Joe Sestak buyoff affair of 2010…
That’s not a comprehensive list, and you wouldn’t expect it to be; after all, federal corruption prosecutions are at a 20-year low — down almost 40 percent since 1995. That’s an awful lot of scot-free crooks.
And we don’t even need to address the Hillary Clinton e-mail case, though it’s the humpback whale in the room. It’s reasonably clear there is a host of federal charges due the former secretary of state for her breathtaking misuse of government documents and reckless negligence in storing state secrets on an unsecured server in a Denver apartment bathroom. How certain are you that a case will be brought before Clinton stands for election in November?
But in the meantime there have been a host of prosecutorial aggressions which have been similarly obnoxious in their political nature. When the president suggested one appropriate use of political power was to “punish your enemies,” he wasn’t kidding.
Just ask Dinesh D’Souza, who had to spend eight months of sleepless nights in a San Diego halfway house populated with rapists, murderers, gang-bangers and other dangerous people, and then in almost Orwellian fashion undergo psychiatric counseling, because he committed the unpardonable crime against democracy of using straw donors to float some $20,000 to Wendy Long, a college friend in a hopeless campaign against New York Senator Kirstin Gillibrand in 2010.
D’Souza may well have deserved some punishment for what he did, which was criminal not only by the letter but more prominently in its stupidity; if he’d just called a lawyer and set up a PAC he could have directly contributed far more to Long’s campaign effort with no trouble at all. But while D’Souza has repeatedly admitted his culpability and repented of the poor judgement which put him at odds with the law, it must be said that his actions were hardly the first of their kind. He’s just the only one who ever lost his freedom for them; usually straw-donor cases, and even ones far, far larger than his, are taken care of through fines. Just ask New York hotelier Sant Singh Chatwal, who funneled $180,000 worth of straw donations to Democrat candidates, including Hillary Clinton, and got off with three years’ probation and a fine.
If D’Souza’s case wasn’t fishy enough consider that of Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, the Coptic Christian filmmaker who was incorrectly blamed for the Benghazi massacre by Obama and Clinton because of a poor YouTube production of an anti-Islamic video. Nakoula spent a year in jail on a trumped-up charge of a parole violation for an unrelated matter after Clinton had vowed to “get” the people responsible for that video in an off-the-record statement to the families of the Benghazi victims.
Or Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), who found himself the subject of prosecutorial interest only after he had the temerity to question Obama’s Iran deal.
In that spirit, it should be interesting that this week the Supreme Court heard arguments in the unusual corruption case surrounding former Virginia governor Bob McDonnell, at one time a rising Republican star but now just hoping to stay out of prison following a conviction on charges he used his office to help Jonnie R. Williams Sr., a businessman who had showered the governor and his wife with luxury products, loans, and vacations worth more than $175,000, gain state contracts.
Except the gifts Williams gave McDonnell were legal. And though the governor admitted he did make introductions for his friend and benefactor, whose company made diet supplements, there was never any real evidence that Williams derived any benefit from the state. No contracts, no payments, no evidence of any actual influence being traded.
The same federal government that has dropped corruption prosecutions to a 20-year low jumped on the McDonnell case and ruined his life and career for accepting legal gifts and tendering no apparent consideration for them. When McDonnell’s appeal hit the Supreme Court Wednesday, the Justice Department didn’t fare very well — and it wasn’t just the four conservatives raking the government’s lawyer over the coals. Stephen Breyer, usually a committed leftist, said of the corruption statute used in the case that as applied “it puts at risk behavior that is common,” and it is “a recipe for giving the Justice Department and prosecutors enormous power over elected officials.”
McDonnell’s actions were anything but wise, and the scandal that erupted when they were found out rightly tarnished his political career. But if making introductions or asking government officials to consider aid to, or business with, someone he was connected to without actually exerting influence to secure those advantages is corruption, how is a Congressman supposed to act on behalf of a constituent? How is a state legislator supposed to attempt to steer a constituent through bureaucratic red tape? How is a city councilman supposed to help with zoning restrictions that don’t make sense?
The answer to this, of course, is that the Congressman, state legislator, or city councilman simply ought to be a Democrat, and a friend of Obama’s, and there will then be no problem with whatever actions he might take for whatever consideration he exacts out of those he helps.
Even the New York Times, whose treatment of McDonnell during his ordeal hasn’t been especially friendly, reported that based on the oral arguments in the case on Wednesday he’s likely to prevail.
And if he does, he’ll be able to recite the famous question asked by former Reagan Labor Secretary Raymond Donovan, who after being acquitted on charges of fraud and larceny in 1987 asked, “Which office do I go to get my reputation back?”
McDonnell might not deserve such redemption. But it’s high time we recognized the atrocious injustice of this administration and the abuse of power it has inflicted on the American people.
And should fortune smile on us and deliver the Democrats out of power next year, we should insist on a reckoning for that abuse of power.