Monday, July 28, 2014

Are Governors Too Big To Jail? Christie, Cuomo, Walker And Deal Must Be Hoping McDonnell Gets Off


Kansas Governor Sam Brownback, as we've explained before, is probably the most overtly extremist governor anywhere. Polls show that Kansas voters are determined to remove him from office and that he's likely to be beaten by a moderate Democrat Paul Davis. Brownback is losing because of his political agenda and because his vision of governance has failed dramatically and, for many in Kansas, catastrophically. But at least no one wants to throw him in prison for corruption-related charges.

At least 4 other governor-- 3 Republicans and a Democrat-- are facing the prospect of leaving office not because of their conservative politics but because of their corrupt natures. Conventional wisdom-- and a helluva lot of evidence-- has it that Nathan Deal (R-GA), Chris Christie (R-NJ), Scott Walker (R-WI) and Andrew Cuomo (D-NY) have all been steeped in the kind of corruption that doesn't just make one ineligible for public trust, but also eligible for federal prison. These are all ugly, grasping little men and they all have something in common: each is an example of the classic definition of a narcissist, a "personality a disorder in which a person is excessively preoccupied with personal adequacy, power, prestige and vanity, mentally unable to see the destructive damage they are causing to themselves and to others in the process" [Wikipedia]. Watch the video below for a better understanding of the disease and why so many of our politicians are afflcted with it.

Narcissism isn't a felony and we don't put politicians in prison for it-- or even force them into mental health treatment. Narcissism, however, more often than not, will lead them into committing the kinds of crimes that are bringing down Deal, Cuomo, Christie and Walker. You remember Richard Nixon, the fella in the Rachel Maddow video up top, right? He never went on trial-- let alone spent a day in prison. Are our politicians too big to jail? We may find out as a trial unfolds starting today for ex-Governor, Bob McDonnell and his wife, a pair of right-wing crooks and narcissists from Virginia. Douglas Wilder, another Virginia ex-Governor who is friendly with McDonnell: "It’s going to be ugly. The more you read, the more sleaze develops. It’s not going to be nice for anyone." It looks like The Post has decided to make its coverage… melodramatic: "McDonnell, 60, a Republican who until January held the same office once occupied by Thomas Jefferson and Patrick Henry, is the first Virginia governor to be charged with a crime."
Together, he and his wife are fighting 14 criminal charges of public corruption and lying on financial documents. Prosecutors have charged that in exchange for private plane rides, golf outings, expensive apparel and $120,000 in loans, the couple helped promote a businessman’s company, setting up meetings for chief executive Jonnie R. Williams Sr. with state officials and even once letting him use the Executive Mansion for the launch of his new product.

Prosecutors will allege that McDonnell, a popular politician who had served 22 years in public life as a state delegate, attorney general and then governor, led a double life.

They will say that even as he held a reputation as a squeaky clean and earnest public servant with his eye on national office, he was secretly plotting with his wife to exchange state favors with Williams for luxuries the couple could not otherwise afford.

McDonnell’s attorneys will counter that he never promised to help Williams’s company and that the garish executive, with his boastful claims of celebrity friends, his high-flying lifestyle and a checkered business past, is now lying about dealings with the governor.

Even touchier, court filings show that McDonnell’s attorneys are preparing to argue that the governor was essentially a victim of his wife, who they will say at times accepted gifts from Williams without her husband knowing about it.

The case has been dissected in hundreds of news stories over the course of the 16 months since it was first revealed that Williams, 59, then the chief executive of a dietary supplement company called Star Scientific, paid $15,000 for the catering at the 2011 wedding of the governor’s daughter.

But the trial undoubtedly will feature new revelations about the couple and about the man from whom they accepted lavish gifts.

One detail that could emerge as defense attorneys try to puncture Williams’s credibility: Williams’s boast that he was friendly with [Lindsay] Lohan and [Paris] Hilton.

The claim came as he stood chatting in the lobby of the Four Seasons Hotel in New York City in 2009 with some of McDonnell’s aides, according to people familiar with what the aides have told prosecutors.

McDonnell had only recently been elected governor and was set to take office the next month. Williams, who had lent his private plane to the victorious campaign, had requested to meet with the incoming governor during a fundraising swing in New York City.

At the time, Williams barely knew McDonnell. But as he awaited his arrival, it was not long before Williams was holding up his cellphone and scrolling through the contact list to show off to the governor’s aides that he had the actresses’ personal numbers.

Accompanied by a friend, a New York-based male model whom Williams said he was eager to introduce to the newly elected governor, Williams told the aides that he had once flown Lohan on the same private plane he lent to the McDonnell campaign.

…The case will come down to whether prosecutors can convince jurors that the McDonnells actually lent Williams the power of the governor’s office as part of a corrupt bargain.

They must prove that the McDonnells were in a conspiracy to perform “official” acts for Williams and that they did so intending to cheat Virginia voters of the governor’s honest services.

Presiding over the case will be U.S. District Court Judge James R. Spencer, a former prosecutor and army officer appointed to the bench by President Ronald Reagan. He is known for his stern and businesslike control of his courtroom, and he will surely attempt to limit salacious distractions.

But the human drama inherent to the case will inevitably emerge. The couple fought unsuccessfully for the right to be tried separately. Instead, the two will share a defense table as the governor argues that his wife kept him in the dark about many of her interactions with Williams, a claim that will require laying bare potentially deeply embarrassing details of their 38-year marriage.

For instance, McDonnell’s attorneys have vigorously denied that the couple were broke, even though they had invested nearly $4 million over three years in real estate and went to Williams three separate times for loans.

Their goal is to deny prosecutors the ability to argue that McDonnell was forced to strike a deal with Williams because of secret financial desperation.

…Even their final days in the governor’s mansion were marred by the kind of jarring contrasts that the federal case has revealed about McDonnell’s four years in office.

McDonnell was consumed with completing his final budget, highlighting the accomplishments of his administration and girding for the indictment that by then seemed inevitable.

Maureen McDonnell was pressing to enjoy the final perks of office.

According to several state employees familiar with her requests, she pushed to stay at the Executive Mansion as long as possible, even asking for access to the 200-year-old historic home after her husband ceded office to Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) on Jan. 11. She reasoned that her husband was elected to a four-year term and had not taken office until Jan. 16, 2010.

In the end, the couple departed the mansion only on the morning of McAuliffe’s inauguration, breaking a recent tradition in which first families have vacated the premises days in advance to allow state employees time to prepare for the new occupants.

About a month before the McDonnells’ exit, the first lady also stunned members of the mansion’s advisory council when she asked whether she could have as keepsakes four shoeboxes full of Christmas ornaments, one from each year that the family occupied the mansion, according to two people directly involved with the council.

The Citizens Advisory Council for Furnishing and Interpreting the Executive Mansion had raised the money to buy the ornaments and had donated them to the mansion, making them state property.

They offered to let her pay for them.

She declined.
Can you imagine anyone bragging that they are friends with Paris Hilton? Can you imagine a conservative Republican governor being impressed with that? The nature of conservatism-- both sides of the aisle (keep Cuomo and Gavin Newsom in mind)-- is fully integrated into the nature of narcissism. Those natures have never and will never lead to anything else but a culture of corruption. For the sake of our democracy, let's hope McDonnell, Deal, Christie, Cuomo and Walker all get life in prison for their felonious betrayal of the public trust. I don't care whether McDonnell's wife goes to prison or not; she was his victim, not the other way round the way his lawyers are trying to paint it.

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