Just Because You Can Do It Doesn’t Mean It’s Not Illegal

Is it just me or does this seem kind of…illegal?

President Obama’s Interior secretary is due for a raise, but Louisiana GOP Sen. David Vitter threatened to block that pay increase unless the Interior Department opens more access to Gulf drilling. Democrats say that Vitter’s opposition amounts to coercion.

This morning, aides to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar say he asked the Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to withdraw any effort to address Salazar’s planned salary increase over a rare and personal dispute launched by Vitter. Salazar wrote to Reid, that Vitter’s demand is “wrong” and called it “attempted coercion.”

When I first clicked on the story I figured Vitter was blocking Salazar’s pay increase as part of some trivial but symbolic budget gesture. “In times of high unemployment and record level debt why should we give public officials raises?”. Silly, but relatively harmless. Instead Vitter refuses to allow Salazar’s scheduled raise to go through unless he leans a certain way on a policy.

If this isn’t pay to play I don’t know what is.

Sure Vitters method and approach might be different, but don’t let that fool you. What he’s saying is quite literally…I will give you money if and only if you support my policy.


If this kind of political coercion is permissible what’s to stop Congress from offering bribes “pay rises” to public officials that vote favorably on certain issues are high achievers.


Why Do Politicians I Work For Keep Cheating On Their Wives?

In case you’ve missed it, the biggest political story of the last 24 hours has clearly been  Senator John Ensign’s (R-NV) confession that he had an affair with one of his married campaign staffers:

Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.) has acknowledged an extramarital affair with a campaign staffer in a statement released by his office. “I deeply regret and am very sorry for my actions,” said Ensign. He is expected to announce the affair at a press conference at 6:30 pm tonight. The affair, which was with a woman who worked for both Ensign’s re-election campaign and his Battle Born leadership political action committee

But the aspect of the story that REALLY makes this political drama interesting is that I worked for Senator Ensign’s re-election campaign during the time in question and knew the woman he cheated with.


But wait…it gets better. According to MSNBC and Politico, the reason Ensign disclosed his affair is because the husband of the women involved tried to blackmail him for a large sum of money. Yes, that’s some good ole fashion extortion right there.

And yet, despite all of the press coverage, there’s one angle that’s being overlooked by all of the media outlets. Not only is the couple involved in the affair/alleged blackmail close and personal friends of the Ensign family, they’re arguably even close to top Republican strategist couple Mike and Lindsey Slanker, the brains and brawn behind Senator Ensign’s political apparatus. It remains to be seen which side the Slanker’s take, but any schism between the two sides could have drastic repercussions for the Republican party.

But, what we do know is that Ensign’s confession will no doubt have major repercussions on the landscape for the 2012  presidential election.

To Run or Not To Run?

Before word broke of an alleged extortion scheme, the prevailing wisdom believed that Ensign’s seemingly random admission of guilt was an attempt to air out his dirty laundry well in advance of a potential campaign for the Republican party’s presidential nomination. But with new information coming to the forefront, no one knows for sure if Senator Ensign will make a 2012 run.

One thing’s for certain. 2012 is a long ways away and no one knows what the political landscape will be like then. Personally, I don’t think Senator Ensign’s confession will harm his political standing one way or another. People have short term political memories. And when it comes to “unimportant” conservative issues like family values, Conservatives  have historically been more than willing to self rationalize forgiveness. Of course, this is only if you’re a Republican and not at all Bill Clinton.

Do As I Say Not What I Do

Though the more curious point that needs to be made is how any person could claim to hold integrity when their current actions oh so clearly violate their past statements. Personally, I believe a politician’s private life is private. As long as there’s two consenting adults there its none of my business what you’re doing in a relationship. But when you run on a socially conservative platform that stresses the values of the family, when you jihad against providing same sex couples with equality under the law, and when you stand on the biggest soapbox you can to routinely criticize other politicians for marriage infidelity, even going as far to demand their resignation, how can you with good faith, postulate your supposed moral authority?

In short, you can’t.

Essential Sotomayor: Everything You Wanted To Know About Sonia Sotomayor

As expected, President Obama officially nominated Federal Appeals court Judge Sonia Sotomayor as the next Supreme Court Justice.

You can read a non biased exposition of her cases here.

It looks like Salon read my blog entry in which I made a political case for Sotomayor.

John Dickerson did too. But he tries to one up me with a slightly different take

If you’re unsure of how to pronounce Sotomayor Slate has you covered.

A Daily-Kos diariest who’s argued before her isn’t too impressed either. (But say’s she’ll be a reliable center-left judge)

A quick point-counterpoint rebuttal of conservative arguments against Sotomayor.

One thing conservatives won’t attack Sotomayor on. Her role in ending the 1995 baseball strike.

Empathy = Weak Argument against her.

Various lawyers who have appeared before her give their feelings.

BREAKING NEWS: David Souter to Retire from Supreme Court

Well this is news…sort of:

Supreme Court Justice David Souter plans to retire, sources told NBC News Thursday night.

Speculation about Souter’s plans began to swirl as the eight other justices were known to have hired the four law clerks who will work with them in the Supreme Court term that begins in October. Souter has been the lone holdout, hiring no one.

A retirement by Souter, 69, would give President Barack Obama his first chance to nominate a justice and the next few months would bring Senate confirmation hearings.

Here’s what you can expect as a result:

Lots of political fighting

Expect major partisan fighting in the Senate…ie Republicans filibustering any potential replacement Obama nominates. Of course a more honest political party wouldn’t take a boldface hypocritical position in light of their very recent opposition to filibustering supreme court nominees. Of course, we’re talking about the Republican party.

Change, but more of the same

Unfortunately the balance of power probably won’t change much regardless of who Obama nominates. The court is more or less split among partisan lines with a 5-4 conservative/liberal split. With Souter coming from the liberal wing of the court, all democrats can hope for is an intelligent and young nominee.

This Is What Stupid Looks Like: NRSC Edition

This blurb caught my eye from today’s First Read:

The National Republican Senatorial Committee is running robo-calls in Pennsylvania, reminding Democrats there that Arlen Specter backed Bush and won’t be an automatic 60th vote in the Senate.

Yes, because Pat Toomey, the republican candidate is going to be a more reliable democrat vote. Oh wait, that’s right. Toomey is one of the most conservative politicians in the country. Oh, that makes so much more sense now.

… NRSC, please, please, please spend a lot of money on this robo call.