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FOX's Gibson equating Democratic "corruption" with Republicans'

Reported by Chrish - May 31, 2006

Reporting on the 'corrupt culture in Congress" on The Big Story today 5/30/06, John Gibson attempted to equeate Democratic misdeeds with Republicans to pre-empt any perceived advantage in the November elections. Gibson questioned Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid's ethics by citing Reid's acceptance of tickets to 3 boxing matches (over three years, not mentioned) from a state agency as evidence of some quid pro quo arrangement. Reid, a former boxer and boxing judge, says he was trying to learn how a proposed federal measure would effect an important home-state industry.

From USA Today:

Boxing is the only major professional sport in the country without a central regulatory authority. There is no other major professional sport in which the rules and regulations vary so widely, the General Accounting Office said in a report last year.

The legislation would establish a United States Boxing Administration within the Labor Department. It would license professional boxers, promoters, managers and sanctioning organizations.

Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., dropped his objections to the bill after McCain (the bill's author - ed.) agreed to allow the agency to regulate HBO, Showtime and other cable TV networks when they act as fight promoters.

Gibson of course also brought up Representative William Jefferson (D-LA) and his apparent acceptance of bribes, and we'll just give him that. Jefferson maintains his innocence but we'll leave it to the courts - from what we've seen in the media it sure looks like he broke the law. It would put him in the same class as Tom DeLay, Duke Cunningham, Bob Ney, Bob Taft, Bill Frist, Dennis Hastert, and other elected officials who have betrayed trust and put personal gain above their constituents.

But the culture of corruption as currently referred to is a Republican thing, as exemplified by the above Republican members of Congress, the Bush administration, their staffs, and their well-connected cronies: Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Karl Rove, David Safavian, Jack Abramoff, Brent Wilkes, Ken Lay, and of course the good folks at "no-bids are good bids" Halliburton, to name some of the more notorious. To use the isolated case of Jefferson to argue that it is a bipartisan issue is like comparing a gardener to a farmer - it's the same operation except for matters of scale and complexity. And to drag Harry Reid's ringside seats into it is an act of sheer desperation.

Guest Jonathan Turley, George Washington University Law Professor, testified today at House Judiciary Committee hearings about the legality and Constitutionality of the FBI search of Jefferson's Capitol Hill office last week.

Turley says that the FBI has the right to investigate and Jefferson is not above prosecution and incarceration, but the manner in which it was done was improper. The administration-sanctioned Saturday night raid shattered 219 years of tradition by ignoring the process that respects the separation of powers.

Jefferson could have been subpoenaed and jailed for contempt if he failed to respond, and the House could have turned over the relevant papers to the FBI, as has been done in the past.

Both parties are charging each other with "culture of corruption" labels, says Gibson. Are the parties to be trusted to turn over the applicable materials themselves? Turley, who has been critical of corruption in Congress, says no, but the Clerks Office, who are civil servants, would gather the materials and turn them over to the Executive.

He says the issue is not some triviality - the framers of the Constitution created the separation of powers to create balance. It is not just a matter of "why didn't you call me" but rather "a terrible blunder by Alberto Gonzales."

Professor Turley's claims are refuted by the next guest, Ken Boehm, co-founder of the conservative National Legal and Policy Center. He voices the position that people see this bipartisan opposition as Congress holding itself above the law, even though it has specifically been said this is not so:

Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco), the top House officials, said in a rare joint statement: "No person is above the law, neither the one being investigated nor those conducting the investigation." Members of Congress said they were not defending any possible wrongdoing by Jefferson. But they said the constitutional principle of separation of powers had been violated.

Gibson careened back to Reid, saying that he does have a vested interest in the sport as the Senator from Nevada; what's wrong with his accepting some tickets to a match? Boehm says that it "looks like an improper gift" and Reid coulda/shoulda paid for his seats, as did Senator John McCain, because he was being lobbied by "the boxing industry". Actually, Reid was being pressured by the Nevada Athletic Commission, the state regulatory agency, who did not want their authority usurped by a federal agency. Ultimately, as noted above, Reid rescinded his objections to the McCain bill in 2004 and the state retained some authority.

Repeating the talking point one more time, Gibson says the Democrats had been counting on running on the "culture of corruption" charges - in light of Jefferson's $100k bribe and Reid's 3/ $700 tickets, do they dare run with that charge? Boehm says people who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones. Gibson rephrases the question ( a neat tactic for drills) and asks, do you think that is effectively over as a campaign charge? and Boehm rephrases his answer: he thinks it is. The public follows the news (oh please) and they know both parties have people who have stepped over the line, and they're disgusted. He claims "the most recent national poll shows" shows 83% think Congressionall corruption is a major problem.

He must be referring to this Democracy Corps Questionnaire (Jan. 22-25, 2006) * 83 percent believe that the current level of corruption is a serious problem—39 percent think it is a “serious” problem, 44 percent think it is a “very serious” problem.

A more recent ( May 17, 2006) Gallup poll shows that

"The percentage of Americans who say that most members of Congress are corrupt has increased significantly from the beginning of this year, and is now at the point at which slightly fewer than half of Americans believe most members are corrupt." This, interestingly, is similar to what Gallup found just prior to the 1994 elections, when Republicans swept Democrats out of power.

However, there is a twist: Relatively few Americans think their own member is corrupt.

But Gallup reports: "The American public is more likely to trust the Democrats in Congress -- rather than the Republicans -- to handle the issue of corruption, although the vast majority of Americans believe corruption in Washington involves both parties equally.

This goes to show the efficacy of the right-wing noise machine, which equatesthe one bad apple and Reid's (quite probably legal) tickets to the vast network of greed and corruption of today's Republicans .

Gibson, still going after Reid and those tickets, asks why he would accept them if he thought it was wrong at a time when Democrats are calling attention to Republican corruption. Obviously (to me), Reid didn't see anything wrong with it. It may well have been completely legal. The gift rules for Congress look straightforward on page one, but there are 23 exceptions - 16 and 18 look like distinct possibilities.

Boehm then says that members of Congress should follow the same rules that federal judges follow: you shouldn't have conflicts of interest, and you shouldn't even have appearance of conflict of interest, because it undermines the public's faith in the integrity of the process.

Comment: So if you're a Justice hearing a case and an involved party is a duck-hunting pal of yours, and you have a trip together right before the case is heard, you should recuse yourself from the case, right? I think that's what he was trying to say. Thank goodness there's no corruption in the courts - we'd be in deep doo if there was.

So once again we see the elephant of hypocrisy and moral convenience in FOX's living room. I smell a big stinking pile of desperation.

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