How We Will Know When the GOP Can Be Trusted

The Democrats swept into power in the wake of an unpopular war,  economic collapse, and perhaps most of all, indisputable proof that too many Republican lawmakers were venal, corrupt, arrogant, and unworthy of power. It has taken only a year from the promises of ethical reform made by Speaker Pelosi and President Obama to seem insincere, and Republican’s believe that this time public distrust will work to their favor, returning them to the power they abused. They may be right. Still, the public is not stupid. If Republicans intend to campaign as the party of fiscal responsibility and honest government, they must demonstrate that the commitment is more than a masquerade. Time and credibility, however, are in short supply.

The signs are not encouraging. Imagine that your political party had a chance to regain their lost majority years before what had seemed possible just a little while before, because the opposing party had shown itself to be profligate, high-handed, and riddled with corruption. Wouldn’t you immediately make certain that every single thing your party did showed scrupulous ethical standards and fiscal responsibility? Even if you didn’t really believe in them, wouldn’t you know that to prevail over the foundering opposing party, your party had to at least appear more responsible and trustworthy?

Yet we see stories like this jaw-dropper:

“She was a 25-year-old junior staffer when the Florida Republican Party gave her an American Express card.
Over the next 2 1/2 years, nearly $1.3 million in charges wound up on Melanie Phister’s AmEx – $40,000 at a London hotel, and nearly $20,000 in plane tickets for indicted former House Speaker Ray Sansom, his wife and kids, for starters. Statements show thousands spent on jewelry, sporting goods and in one case $15,000 for what’s listed as a month long stay at a posh Miami Beach hotel, but which the party says was a forfeited deposit…

The credit card records, obtained by the St. Petersburg Times and Miami Herald, offer the latest behind-the-scenes look at extravagant and freewheeling spending by the party touting fiscal restraint. Not only did certain elite legislative leaders have their own party credit cards to spend donors’ money with little oversight, but Phister’s records show these leaders also liberally used an underling’s card – without her knowledge, she says…

Phister served as finance director for state House campaigns for 2 1/2 years starting in mid 2006… who mainly answered to Sansom, R-Destin, speaker-designate at the time and overseeing House campaign operations….Sansom was indicted by a grand jury last year for inserting $6 million into the state budget for an airport building that a friend and GOP contributor, Jay Odom, wanted to use as an airplane hangar. That criminal investigation revealed that Sansom charged more than $170,000 on his party-issued credit card – everything from plane tickets for his family to clothes to electronics. Turns out Sansom spent heavily on Phister’s card as well.

Her credit card statements include at least four sets of plane tickets for Sansom, his wife and four kids. He also ordered Phister to accompany him on a trade trip to London in the summer of 2008. Phister brought her mother along at Sansom’s encouragement, and Phister’s GOP AmEx saw plenty of action: nearly $40,000 at a London hotel, and more than $3,600 in sightseeing expenses….

Phister’s AmEx shows $10,000 to a watch company in California in August 2008. Republican donors paid for Sansom to present every legislator, Democrat and Republican alike, with a memento watch. Phister’s card paid for nearly $650,000 in lodging, $60,000 in airfare – mostly commercial airlines – and $66,000 for charter planes. The statements show Republican donors also paid for plane tickets to Germany for Phister and her mother.

That’s the state GOP, in Florida. It is clearly following the example set by the national Republican leadership, under the direction of Michael Steele. Steele has already shown that he will flirt with mail fraud to get contributions, and the reports of his fiscal management are officially in the “Believe It or Not!” category, and not in a good way. Federal Election Commission filings revealed that the Republican National Committee is extremely free with other people’s money, namely their donors’:

“A February RNC trip to California, for example, included a $9,099 stop at the Beverly Hills Hotel, $6,596 dropped at the nearby Four Seasons, and $1,946.25 spent  at Voyeur West Hollywood, a bondage-themed nightclub featuring topless women dancers imitating lesbian sex. RNC trips to other cities produced bills from a long list of chic and costly hotels such as the Venetian and the M Resort in Las Vegas, and the W (for a total of $19,443) in Washington. A midwinter trip to Hawaii cost the RNC $43,828, not including airfare.”

How can this be happening? Republicans think that Obama is leading the country to perdition and bankruptcy, the Party believes stopping the Democrats is a patriotic duty, it knows that the public will be itching to install a fiscally responsible government it can trust, and this is how it demonstrates its fitness to govern? There is only one reason I can think of to explain why Republicans are not behaving responsibly and ethically in preparation for November elections. They don’t know how. They can’t stop themselves. They are immersed in a corrupt, fiscally undisciplined culture, and like the Democrats, cannot be trusted. They can’t tune up their ethics alarms, because they have none.

Is that too pessimistic? I hope so. But before anyone can rationally conclude that the Republican Party can be trusted to hold power again, we must witness the following:

  • The Party must drum the unequivocal crooks, liars, hypocrites and cheats out of its ranks or into retirement. Good-bye, Ralph Reed, Sen. John Ensign, S. C. Governor Mark Sanford, Sen. David Vitter, et al.
  • Republicans must announce a no-tolerance policy regarding corruption.
  • The GOP must stop lionizing past figures with dubious ethical credentials, and aggressively prevent the likes of  Dick Cheney, Dick Morris, Karl Rove, yes, and Sarah Palin from representing the Party in the public eye.
  • Most of all, R.N.C. Chairman Steele must go. Currently the party says that it will stand for competence, ethics and fiscal responsibility is being led by a politician who appears to be an unethical, spendthrift incompetent.

If the G.O.P doesn’t take these steps, or at least as many of them as possible, the meaning will be clear. It will mean that the Party doesn’t know how to be ethical and responsible, that it doesn’t even know how to pretend to be ethical and responsible.

Just like the Democrats!

9 thoughts on “How We Will Know When the GOP Can Be Trusted

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  4. Well, time to oust the incumbents. The problem is, everyone wants THEIR corrupt incumbent because he . The only way to get rid of the corrupt politicians is to get rid of the corrupt politicians, and that means ALL of them. You can’t change a corrupt culture by changing 10% of the faces. You can if you change 70% of the faces.

    Perhaps it is really time to rethink our system. Who do we elect, why, and who can serve? Most decent, hardworking citizens are ineligible to serve in public office because they have jobs. To take an elective office means, in most cases, to walk away from your job permanently event though you will not be in office permanently (probably). Who is left to run for office? People without jobs, people with jobs but enough money that they don’t really need them, and people who, once elected, need to squeeze as much out of the system as they can so because once out of office they are unemployed.

  5. Neither party knows how to be ethical, Jack. That is a fact that has been proven so many times it is ridiculous.

    In all honesty, every American must accept this sad reality, or vote for some other party. There is absolutely no reason to believe that the Republicans will do a better job than the Democrats if given equivalent power.

    The best hope for America is to elect one party or the other with such narrow margins that they have to negotiate with each other to pass anything, and then alternate. After exposure to both Democrat and Republican majorities, gridlock seems the only way to minimize the damage these people invariably do.

    Americans, up until 9/11 and the 2008 financial meltdown, had been pretty much applying this principle very well.

  6. As a Republican elected official who tries (and perhaps sometimes fails) to maintain high ethical standards, I too become frustrated with some of the character failures I see within our party. Not only that, but the hypocrisy of claiming Republican (read that Conservative) principles but then compromising these values on the altar of convenience, re-election, or whatever, makes me mad!

    Sheriff Ray

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