Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, may be the target of an ethics investigation following reports he accepted free boxing tickets to three fights from the Nevada Boxing Commission at the same time a bill was moving through the Senate to increase federal oversight of the oft-criticized sport.
Reid said, according to the report, he accepted the tickets because he was researching the potential impact boxing regulations would have on his home state (the matches were in Las Vegas) and the free tickets would not have any impact on his vote.
The tickets did not come from a private lobbyist but it is hard to ignore a certain appearance, especially when Reid’s behavior is compared to two other senators.
Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, insisted on paying for his ticket for the fight he attended with Reid. Sen. Ensign, R-Nevada, accepted the free tickets but then abstained from any votes or actions on the boxing bill.
In all likelihood, Reid has done nothing that will force the federal government to find him a seat in federal prison next to ex-Republican Rep. Duke Cunningham. That seat is still likely reserved for embattled Louisiana Democrat Rep. William Jefferson.
What Reid might have done, should this story catch fire in the national news media, is deliver another blow to what was to be a prominent theme of Democratic campaigns in the upcoming midterm elections: a culture of corruption.
Many Democrats had hoped to run a campaign taking Republicans to task for ethical violations using Cunningham, lobbyist Jack Abramoff, Ohio Gov. Bob Taft, Rep. Tom DeLay, R-Texas, and others as examples.
That effort has taken a series of hits recently as several Democrats have run into legal and ethical troubles. West Virginia Rep. Alan Mollohan, the highest-ranking member on the House Ethics committee, is under investigation for corruption. Rep. Jefferson is accused of taking bribes. Don Siegelman, who might well be the next governor of Alabama, is currently under indictment and on trial for allegations of corruption during the time he was governor of Alabama. Add Reid to this list who, in addition to this boxing brouhaha, has apparent ties to Abramoff according to this news story.
Neither party has a monopoly on political corruption. We have gotten into this mess in part because too many in the electorate think the other party is the corrupt one. Former President Ronald Reagan is credited with having had a so-called 11th Commandment admonishing Republicans not to criticize fellow Republicans. I recognize the virtue of unity and loyalty but that is exactly the wrong approach to take! We should expect more of our own respective party, whichever party we belong to, than we do of our opponents.
If the team jersey we wear means so much to us we should insist those wearing it do so with honor. Tom DeLay’s river of allegedly dirty money should offend Republicans in Texas and around the nation and they should have told him to go jump in a lake. The GOP should have been insisting he hit the bricks instead of trying to change the rules to allow him to remain in leadership. Democrats should be publicly asking Reid why he did not pay his own way, recuse himself, or stay home and watch the fight on pay per view the way the rest of us did. Researching economic impacts, my ass! The Democrats should be insisting Minority Leader Reid be busted down to Senator Reid at the very least if not all the way down to Mr. Reid.
It does not take a lot of political courage to take shots at your political opponents. It requires a good bit more fiber to take on your friends, supporters, and contributors. By the same token, it is easy to dismiss the critics when you see them as enemies. It becomes a lot tougher to ignore when the critiques are coming from your own team. Ask the tobacco industry what life has been like post-Jeffrey Wigand.
Voters have raised a lousy generation of leaders who believe they can get away with anything and all too often we prove them right. We put them there and we let them stay there. We have reinforced their belief they can ride out nearly any storm if they obfuscate the truth and/or blame someone else. Blame it on a vast right-wing conspiracy. Blame it on the liberal media. Blame Rush Limbaugh or Jerry Falwell. Blame Christians or labor unions or gay people.
There is a difference between winning and victory. Both parties care only of winning. Neither party is worthy.