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June 8, 2005, 3:20 P.M.

The recent remarks by Democratic National Committee Chairman, Howard Dean, remind us of why, after building so much momentum early on, he lost the nomination to a much more measured speaker. Dean’s intemperance, however, is far less likely to get him in trouble in his current job. In fact, he is drawing attention to issues that Democrats need to push out front, like the fact that the Republican party has a big business-driven agenda that really does not do much for the dwindling middle class.

John Edwards dealt with some of Dean’s remarks in his usual eloquent style in an article on his One America blog. Many other Democrats have joined Edwards in reinforcing the message. Republicans are not interested in the middle class – and in condemning the way in which Howard Dean conveyed the message.

Howard Dean ought to think about how he says things so that the message does not get lost in the hysteria surrounding his delivery.

June 6, 2005, 6:00 A.M.

Return of the Sith: The events leading up to Richard Nixon’s resignation and the events surrounding the Watergate break in played a significant role in shaping my political outlook and philosophy. I was in high school between 1972 and 1976 and followed the progress of the investigation and revelations about the White House cover up on a daily, almost religious basis. I was fortunate that my high school library had a subscription to the Washington Post and the New York Times. I made time every day to catch up on the latest details of the saga right through the congressional hearings, the Saturday night massacre, the Ellsberg trial and the resignation. Heady times for a high school student.

It was east to follow the events during the school year, but during the summer I had to rely on the local newspaper and the T.V. for my daily fix. I was able to catch the congressional hearings from time to time and testimony of John Dean and the startling revelation by Alexander Butterfield that Nixon had actually taped all of his conversations in the Oval Office.

Howard Simmons, managing editor at the Washington post gave one of the most celebrated sources of the Woodward- Bernstein investigation his nickname. Deep Throat has since that time been a character of mythic proportions, the subject of countless wagers and even the topic of college courses. Woodward and Bernstein vowed never to expose the identity of Deep Throat until after his death. Just last week, Deep Throat himself came forward and his identity has been confirmed by the Washington Post. The mystery is finally over, except for the why, of course.

Former FBI agent and senior FBI official during the Nixon era, W. Mark Felt, is Deep Throat. At the time of the Watergate investigation, Felt was the number 2 man at the FBI, thought by many to be the likely successor to J. Edgar Hoover until he was passed over for a Nixon appointee from outside the agency. Felt has long been a suspect, but not my prime suspect. I fantasized about it being Pat Buchanan (I have always disliked his holier-than-thou attitude), but actually thought it was Al Haig. Rumors surfaced several years ago that it was Felt after the contents of 1988 summer camp conversation in which Mr. Bernstein’s son Jacob apparently named Felt as Deep Throat became the subject of a 1999 article in the Hartford Courant. Even armed with this tidbit, I still held out hope that it was Buchanan, or at least Haig.

Apparently Mr. Felt has always had misgivings about his role in the scandal, and many have opined that his bitterness at being passed over by Nixon for the top spot in the FBI might have motivated him to break the law by passing secret information from an ongoing FBI investigation to the press. Still others, the likes no less than of G. Gordon Liddy, Chuck Colson and Pat Buchanan have had the audacity to call him a criminal in some sick, twisted attempt to somehow resurrect their own reputations at the expense of Mr Felt. I look forward to the day when the rest of the story will be told, and I hope that the motivation behind Mr. Felt’s actions will be known.

Let’s not forget that Nixon and his cronies precipitated the most significant Constitutional crisis this country has ever seen. They attempted to institutionalize crime and to declare the office of the President immune from criminal prosecution. They attempted to place themselves above and exempt from the very law the executive branch is sworn to enforce, and they have no standing to condemn Mark Felt. If indeed Felt broke the law, and there is some question as to whether or not he did, he did so at a time when lawlessness was rampant. Liddy is no better or cleaner because he gleefully accepted his sentence and has never apologized for his descent into the dark side. A former FBI agent and prosecutor himself, Liddy became a criminal for hire. Nixon was the evil Sith, the one who would be king and his handlers cronies facilitators and henchmen were no better. Felt, on the other hand, used the power of the press to accomplish what could not, in the face of the power of the Nixon White House, be done from the inside. He helped exposed the crimes of and entire political machine that controlled the very agency for which he worked. Nixon, Haldeman, Ehrlichman, Mitchell, Magruder, Libby, McCord, Sloan, Colson, Segretti, and the rest are vial criminals and we need to remember that in the context of judging Mark Felt. Even if he were to join them in that dubious distinction, that does not change the facts of what these men did. These are criminals who used and abused their power and there is no redemption for them.

Just thinking about Watergate again has rekindled some of the passion I felt (no pun intended) when I read the unfolding story more than thirty years ago. It has also reminded me of the profound changes in our government, and more particularly in the oversight of our government, that resulted from the Watergate investigations. In the face of 9/11, a lot of ground has been lost and I am afraid that recent scandals such as the Chandler ethics scandal, the DeLay scandals and the lies that have gotten us into an unwinnable war in Iraq, give the Watergate crowd and their contemporary counterparts some hope for the renewed reign of the Sith. Our current government is creating an environment where dishonorable people feel comfortable. There is little in today’s news to suggest that they shouldn’t be. I only hope that when the need arises, there is enough of an independent press left to hear the words of the next Deep Throat.

June 6, 2005, 7:30 P.M.

[Ed. note: This is a revision and update of an earlier post.]

Double Standard: Last week the New Hampshire State Legislature's ethics committee recommended that former House Speaker and Bartlett Representative Gene Chandler be expelled from the Legislature for using his elected office to collect personal gifts from State House lobbyists and other donors, some of whom do business with the state. The recommendation came in a report by the ethics committee which investigated Chandler’s personal fundraising activities. The report comes eight months after Chandler was first accused of breaking state law and ethics guidelines through his practice of throwing annual fundraisers to help cover his personal expenses. He has since pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge for failing to file annual lists of contributors with the Secretary of State. He paid a $2,000 fine and must perform 100 hours of community service. Chandler chose not to run for another term as House speaker last December because of the allegations, but he remains a state representative. Unfortunately, despite the ethics committee recommendation, he remains one today.

The question of whether or not Chandler could remain as a representative was decided by the full House in a vote last week. By a margin of 172 to 189, the house narrowly voted to reject the ethics committee’s recommendation of expulsion, and instead chose to publicly censure Chandler. The last time a New Hampshire legislator was removed from office was in 1913, and that was for taking bribes.

Speaking to reporters shortly after the release of the report, Ethics Committee Chairman, and former Senator Ned Gordon said Chandler's role as House Speaker warranted a strong punishment. Gordon was quoted in the Monitor as saying: "A person in a leadership position has some responsibility to make sure they set an example for other members of the Legislature," Gordon said. "To simply say, 'I was not aware of the law,' is not an excuse." Chandler had maintained that he was not aware of the reporting requirement. The wrongdoing stems from Chandler's failure to report the names of donors to his annual "Old Fashioned Corn Roasts” to the Secretary of State as the reporting law requires. Chandler held the annual events to raise money for personal use. According to the Monitor, the corn roasts carried $10-per-person entry fees but bigger donations were common, with some lobbyists and businesses giving Chandler as much as $1,000. Chandler had said he didn't know that both state law and the Legislature's ethics rules required that he report details of who was giving him money. He also said he did not know that ethics guidelines prohibit lawmakers from taking gifts worth more than $250 from people with business before the Legislature. The total amount raised through the corn roasts was about $64,000, which certainly ain’t chicken feed.

Chandler attempted, unsuccessfully, to convince the ethics committee that his criminal conviction, which carried a $2,000 fine and 100 hours of community service, was a sufficient sentence. The committee thankfully rejected this argument citing the authority of the legislature to set a higher standard for its members. The committee report says “To have the leader of the institution claim ignorance of [the ethics guidelines] creates even more cynicism and distrust of the process." It goes on to say, “the violations create an aura of suspicion as to other public officials, an erroneous and unfortunate assumption, given the hard work done by all other members of the Legislature. If nothing else, the receipt of tens of thousands of dollars in cash gifts from those having a great stake in his legislative action should have raised a red flag sufficient to create an ethical concern. To the contrary, in his testimony, Rep. Chandler made clear that he thought it was legal, and that made it permissible. The ethics guidelines establish a higher standard, and the members of the public expect and deserve more." The committee decision to expel Chandler was unanimous.

It is unconscionable for someone who has served in the State House for over 20 years and who has held leadership roles, including Speaker of the House, to remain in the face of this type of behavior. Chandler knew that what he was doing was wrong and he does not deserve to take up a seat in the legislature, no matter how popular he is back home. Anything short of expulsion under these circumstances suggests that this type of unethical and illegal behavior is acceptable to a majority of the Senate and that is disturbing. They should be paid more, no doubt, but Gene knew the deal when he signed on.

Apparently the current House Speaker, Doug Scamman, does not agree. Scammon reportedly told the Monitor that he would bring the recommendation before the full House at last Wednesday's session, but he would not support expelling Chandler. I had hoped that the rest of the house would agree with the committee, and would send Chandler packing. But apparently, Chandler is seen as a good guy (and political ally) and his colleagues therefore forgave his transgressions, citing his long years of service and the fact that he was reelected by his constituents even after the news of his illegal activities broke. He reportedly received applause after the censure. The same body that claimed the moral and ethical high ground in its fight with former New Hampshire Supreme Court Chief Justice David Brock, failed to hold its own member to the standards to which it claims to hold others.

Ralph Rosen was the only member of the Laconia delegation who supported the expulsion. Good for you, Ralph. I am disappointed with the rest of our delegation because this was an opportunity to send a message that the legislature’s rhetoric regarding the ethical conduct of its members is more than talk, and that the people of New Hampshire deserve better. There can be no acceptable explanation for refusing to expel Chandler, and I doubt that there is any explanation other than party loyalty. If that’s the case we should be able to expect that our delegation will parlay that blind political support into some advantage for their constituents, if they are even thinking about us.

Like Tom DeLay, Gene Chandler has obviously become too comfortable in his office and he has forgotten who he works for, just like Tom Delay.

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Copyright 2005 Edward Philpot

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