Editorials

Nick Smith: Shows both his good, bad side

REP. NICK SMITH

Shows both his good, bad side

Our federal legislator Rep. Nick Smith (R-Addison) has certainly gone beyond the alloted 15 minutes of fame. The veteran legislator has made the front page of newspapers across the country following a voting incident in November.

Rep. Smith came through with two incidents of courage and honesty before taking a disappointing backwards slide into politics-as-usual.

The incident arose during the showdown in the House of Representatives over the Medicare Prescription Drug bill Nov. 21. Rep. Smith was clear about his opposition to the bill. He said it would lead to “explosive new costs and huge unfunded liabilities that will burden future generations.” It wasn’t the bill he was hoping for, and he said senior citizens would likely be surprised at how littlecoverage it actually offered.

To vote against the measure bucked the party line, and this is the first instance where Nick Smith showed his integrity. It’s not easy to stand up against party pressure and vote your conscience—particularly in such a tightly contested issue when every vote necessary is needed for passage. Smith called it the most intense arm-twisting he experienced in his 11 years in Washington.

Rep. Smith’s second showing of integrity followed the vote when he offered details of the behind-the-scenes pressure. According to his account, a “yes” vote would assure that his son, Brad—one of several GOP candidates to replace Smith in the House—would receive campaign donations of $100,000 from business interests. In his official press release, Rep. Smith states that “bribes and special deals were offered.” He gave details to a Kalamazoo radio station reporter.

This means that at least one member of the House of Representatives has broken federal law. Bribery for votes is not the way the political process is supposed to work in America.

Then came the disappointment to tarnish Rep. Smith’s legislative career.

As the seriousness of the crime came to light, Smith began to back off from his original story. Now he says that he misspoke, that no sum of money was ever mentioned.

In other words, either he didn’t tell the truth in his original accounts or he’s not telling the truth now. To say that Nick Smith is a bad liar is a testament to his integrity—up until this incident when apparent heavy party pressure is at work once again.

We like the whistleblower version of our representative much better than the one who seems to be suffering from political amnesia. If American politics is sliding into action through bribery, then a house-cleaning is in order.

This is the sort of shenanigans that we criticize in less democratic nations.

 

– DGG, Jan. 14, 2004