There Are Crimes And High Crimes
Wednesday - June 15, 2011
Former City Councilman Rod Tam pled “no contest” last week to eight counts of violations of campaign spending laws - some of which carry prison terms. Considering that those came in addition to 26 misdemeanor and petty misdemeanor charges of theft and falsifying documents for which Tam was awaiting sentencing last week, and we’re looking at a man who may well be on his way to jail.
Few will come to his defense. To many, Tam was a joke. After all, as a state representative, he once introduced a bill that would have allowed state workers to take naps at their desks. “That was stupid,” said his critics, many of whom, like many of us in both the private and public sectors, occasionally nod off during our work-days.
In suggesting that people with body odor shouldn’t be allowed on city buses, Tam verbalized what many a bus rider who’s moved back several rows has thought. But the civil libertarians said, “Tsk-tsk, there he goes again.”
Tam also proposed using Koko Crater as a landfill. “So dumb, so Rod Tamish,” some said, knowing full-well that garbage dumps should be restricted to mountain ranges in West Oahu.
Yes, Tam said dumb things and he broke campaign spending laws. And on more than one occasion, he acted the fool in the eyes of those of us who are never foolish.
But somehow that didn’t bother his downtown, Punchbowl and Alewa Heights constituents. Despite his gaffs, they elected him and re-elected him without break to the state House, the state Senate and the City Council - a total of 26 years in public office. Only city term limits stopped him. Tam’s critics said voters did so because Tam campaigned so hard (which he did) or because they were as buffoonish as he was (though buffoonish voting knows no council district boundaries).
No, Tam was no buffoon. Or if he was, he was minor league one - nowhere near the bigs like U.S. Rep. Anthony Wiener of “This is me” Twitter fame. Or former U.S. Sen. John Edwards, who thought he could run for president, take a lover, father a child by her and cover it up with $900,000 provided by a couple of wealthy campaign supporters. Or U.S. Rep. Christopher Lee, he also a social network “I’m baring my chest for you, baby” notoriety.
The real fools, I fear, are you and I - big-time fools. We grow livid over small-time perpetrators like Tam, while our campaign spending system, nationally and locally, is corrupt to the core and our political heroes, be they Barack Obama or Mitt Romney or whom-soever else is your man or woman of the moment, are corrupted by it with far greater consequences than Tam’s petty thievery and campaign spending violations.
In 2008 Barack Obama raised and spent more money on his presidential campaign than any candidate in history. Next year his campaign managers project a $1 billion reelection effort.
It will probably cost considerably more than that.
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is no favorite of the Republican Party’s conservative base, but he may well be its nominee for one simple reason: Romney, founder of a successful investment firm, can raise oodles and oodles of money.
Where will those campaign funds come from? From people who want to invest in a politician, that’s who. They understand that their investments can pay huge dividends: tax cut after tax cut after tax, for example, while decade-long wars are fought but go unpaid for; inconvenient regulatory legislation abandoned or forestalled; bailouts should their junk bond capers bring the nation’s economy to its knees.
And no jail time. No jail time.
Poor Rod Tam. Silly us.
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