This Just In, Or Was That Yesterday, Or Last Week, Or....
Seriously, when I first read this AP report on Dr. Frist, it felt so much like deja vu that I wondered if I'd clicked on an old saved e-clipping, or some such thing.
These guys have slipped the bonds of normal corruption so completely that I can't even ask you if what follows sounds familiar, can't even, in fact, pretend that the question is meant ironically; irony, parody, satire, bombast, it all has to be redefined for the modern Republican Party:
WASHINGTON - Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist's AIDS charity paid nearly a half-million dollars in consulting fees to members of his political inner circle, according to tax returns providing the first financial accounting of the presidential hopeful's nonprofit.
The returns for World of Hope Inc., obtained by The Associated Press, also show the charity raised the lion's share of its $4.4 million from just 18 sources. They gave between $97,950 and $267,735 each to help fund Frist's efforts to fight AIDS.
The tax forms, filed nine months after they were first due, do not identify the 18 major donors by name.
Frist's lawyer, Alex Vogel, said Friday that he would not give their names because tax law does not require their public disclosure. Frist's office provided a list of 96 donors who were supportive of the charity, but did not say how much each contributed. (emphasis mine)
Gee, you could say I'm "supportive of the charity," even though before I read this article I hadn't heard of it, after all I'm supportive of anything that will those who have AIDS, or will help to stop its spread.
The donors included several corporations with frequent business before Congress, such as insurer Blue Cross/Blue Shield, manufacturer 3M, drug maker Eli Lilly and the Goldman Sachs investment firm.
World of Hope gave $3 million it raised to charitable AIDS causes, such as Africare and evangelical Christian groups with ties to Republicans â€” Franklin Graham's Samaritan Purse and the Rev. Luis Cortes' Esperanza USA, for example.
The rest of the money went to overhead. That included $456,125 in consulting fees to two firms run by Frist's longtime political fundraiser, Linus Catignani. One is jointly run by Linda Bond, the wife of Sen. Christopher "Kit" Bond, R-Mo.
Okay, okay, maybe it shouldn't be surprising that there are these kinds of overlaps between people who share common connections by virtue of political affiliation, but come on, Dr. Frist is rich enough to contribute 3 million of his own dollars to these particular charities. Or was the point of this entire enterprise to give potential presidential candidate Frist a talking point about his sensitivity to the issue of AIDS; "look, I even have my own AIDS-centric charity." And why shouldn't he throw a little business to friends and supporters while he's at it?
Political experts said both the size of charity's big donations and its consulting fees raise questions about whether the tax-exempt group benefited Frist's political ambitions.
"One of the things people who are running for president try to do is keep their fundraising staff and political people close at hand. And one of the ways you can do that is by putting them in some sort of organization you run," said Larry Noble, the government's former chief election lawyer who now runs the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics that studies fundraising.
Kent Cooper, the Federal Election Commission's former public disclosure chief, said the big donors' motives are also suspect.
Read the whole article here, although it's yet more of the same - an incestuous ruling class that writes its own rules and adds to the cynicism of most voters, which means Republicans win, because they are the party who always benefits from low voter turnout.
Since it's arguable that nothing was illegal here, and when isn't that arguable, this will be yet another unexploded bomb that stays put, a latent danger, not to Frist or to the thuggish corruption tolerated by pretty much the entire Republican establishment, not to the SCLM, which contents itself with exposing this Republican lump of shit left on Mall of American Political Life, and then that lump, and then, oh yes, look at that lump over there, but never connects the dots by coming to the obvious conclusions about the regime currently ruling, and we do mean RULING, America.
And the final effect of all this? Too many of the rest of us become cynical, or just get tired of stepping in shit, so we stay away from political life, from caring about the democratic republic that has never been perfect, and never will be, but whose history has been a gradual course that has flowed toward inclusion and participation by the so-called ordinary citizens who are supposed to be the last word about how they are governed. Something about "the consent of the governed, wasn't it?
God, I'm sick of it.
Of course the rules were different through-out the nineties.
Every allegation about the Clinton administration was treated as a true assumption that it became the task of Democrats to disprove.
And then this week, the Washington Postâ€™s John Harris, one of the only journalists who has ever even tried to suggest, if somewhat grudgingly, and inadequartely, that maybe, just maybe, the SCLM had a different standard in judging the Clinton administration than it has been using in judging this Bush administration, and even wrote a book about the Clinton administration that suggested maybe, gee, maybe it wasn't all that bad, and was maybe, even, a triiiifle, maybe, misjudged, yes, that same John Harris has a hizzy fit because a Republican operative has called to Master Harris's attention, Dan Froomkin's Wa Po column, which is then deemed not to meet the high journalistic standards of Master Harris and his playmates, by the prissy standards of the SCLM, wherein, a point of view is immediately assumed to be the same thing as bias, while the kind of fealty that we can see right out in the open that John Harris is paying to Patrick Ruffini is apparently considered good journalistic ethics.
Louis Vampa at TPM Cafe calls it Crookocracy, and isn't that a much better word, even if it is a made-up word, than "corruption?" These guys break the law, both the unwritten laws, and the written ones.
For more on the Harris matter, Paul Waldman has a good piece up at The Gadflyer, and then there's the man who was there before any of us were, the incomparable Bob Somerby who had some choice words to say about Harris when he was bobbing and weaving in 2001,in an unsuccessful attempt to be honest about differences between coverage of a Republican President and the fomer Democratic one.