The Stench of Corruption

Michigan Rep. Nick Smith: Was he bribed? I knew something stunk to high heaven. When the US Congress OKed the recently passed Medicare bill — the one that will force many seniors to join health-maintenance (as if!) organizations and will fill the coffers of drug companies and GOP corporate contributors — it was obvious that something was rotten in Denmark. Now comes news that one or more of the votes in favor of this awful legislation may have been bought and paid for. Surprise, surprise.

USA Today reports:

Democrats and a legal watchdog group have asked Attorney General John Ashcroft to investigate allegations that Republicans offered a House member $100,000 in contributions for his son’s election campaign if he would vote for a Medicare prescription drug benefit passed by Congress last month.
Such an offer could be interpreted as a bribe that violates federal law, Democrats and outside legal experts said. Ashcroft spokesman Mark Corallo said Thursday that the attorney general’s office will review a letter requesting an investigation from Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe. …

Though lobbying for support is common during close votes, the Republicans’ successful effort in the wee hours of Nov. 22 stands out for several reasons. GOP leaders held the vote open for nearly three hours. House Speaker Dennis Hastert, who customarily leaves partisan arm-twisting to others, was actively involved. So was Tommy Thompson, President Bush’s secretary of Health and Human Services, even though Cabinet members seldom enter the House or Senate chambers.

Media reports have alleged that an undisclosed Republican told Rep. Nick Smith, R-Mich., that if he voted for the bill, business interests would contribute $100,000 to help his son, Brad, succeed him. Smith is not seeking re-election in 2004. His son is one of several Republican candidates running for the seat.

“Not only was this bribe offered to a member of Congress, it was offered on the floor of the House of Representatives by another member of Congress,” McAuliffe wrote Ashcroft.

The Lansing State Journal reports that a statement from Smith insists that no mention of money was made.

“I want to make clear that no member of Congress made an offer of financial assistance for my son’s campaign in exchange for my vote on the Medicare bill,” the statement said.

“I was told that my vote could result in interested groups giving substantial and aggressive campaign ‘support’ and ‘endorsements.’ Some (House) members said they would work against Brad if I voted no.”

Smith did vote against the bill, which has since passed the House and the Senate and is awaiting President Bush’s signature. Smith has not identified who made the offer.

Perhaps no mention of money was made. It still sounds like a bribe — and a threat — to me.

Geez… the GOP has to steal elections (with the Supreme Court’s help) to get into the White House. Now this. Can’t the Republican Party do anything fair and square?

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