Charlie Harper, a conservative Republican writing at PeachPundit.com, raises an important parallel that I hadn’t remembered.
In the late ’90s, state Rep. Ralph David Abernathy III, son of the civil rights legend of the same name, ended up serving 13 months in state prison. As Harper notes:
“Abernathy was found guilty of five counts of theft by taking, five counts of false statement, five counts of violating his oath of office, two counts of forgery and one count of influencing a witness. According to a press release still found on the Georgia attorney general’s office website, ‘These charges involved submitting false expense reimbursement requests to the Georgia General Assembly, forging documents to substantiate the expenses, and subsequently receiving reimbursement money from the state of Georgia.’
That attorney Ggeneral was Thurbert Baker, also a Democrat. Abernathy was prosecuted by members of his own political party.”
On Wednesday, the Senate Rules Committee will meet to consider evidence that state Sen. Don Balfour, Republican chairman of the Senate Rules Committee and one of the most powerful people in the Legislature, has also filed repeated false claims for travel reimbursements and committee-related pay.
As Harper puts it:
“Meanwhile, the Republicans who used Ralph David Abernathy and Charles Walker as convenient whipping boys to gain power continue to pretend to see nothing wrong with the behavior or expense reimbursements of Don Balfour. It seems that if there is no investigation, no finding of ethical violation, no indictment, and no conviction then we as Republicans can continue to claim we are better than they were. We are not.”
Ethics reform and ethics enforcement is not and should not be a partisan issue. And while neither party is immune, it is the party that holds power that is more likely to be seduced and tempted, and also more likely to feel more or less immune by virtue of the authority that they wield.
It was the Democrats back then; it is the Republicans today. It’s going to be interesting to see how this plays out.
– Jay Bookman