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Feb 9, 2004 4:50 am


Political Notes



Small update in the case of Congressman Nick Smith, with Roll Call having revealed that House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Maryland) plans to file en Ethics Committee complaint on the matter if the House leadership doesn’t act. This week’s New Republic has a convincing piece on why House Democrats should abandon the informal truce on Ethics Committee complaints.

A few weeks back, Ralph Luker raised the interesting question of why the $100,000 allegedly offered Smith for his son’s campaign warchest differed from the traditional tactic of trading votes for patronage or pork-barrel projects in the member’s district. In one way, I’d agree that there isn’t much difference—in some ways, the latter approach is worse, since it’s government money that’s being spent. On the other hand, though, political corruption statutes dating from the Progressive Era have focused on attempting to contain the role of campaign contributions in influencing legislation, which makes the Smith matter so egregious.

On the question of the Democratic race, Jerry Sternstein recently chided me, correctly, for commenting that Al Sharpton is in any way interested in advancing anyone’s cause but his own in his presidential campaign. Further confirmation of this comes from this week’s Village Voice, which has a fascinating article on GOP attempts to keep Sharpton in the race by financing his campaign. The Voice also has an excellent piece by one of my favorite authors, Rick Perlstein, on Howard Dean’s effect on this year’s race.

Finally, those who need an additional reminder as we head into the campaign season on how precipitously the competitiveness of House elections has declined should check out this great site, which has the tallies, listed comparatively, on every House race since 1968.


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