Tags: Joe Biden | Bob McDonnell | Star Scientific | Jonnie Williams | Walmart

Why Voters Are the Best Ethics Commission

Friday, 20 February 2015 10:48 AM Current | Bio | Archive

I went to an uppity Dallas high school with some of the oil–rich Hunts. I’m friends with a guy who owns a private island. One of my female classmates was the granddaughter of the founders of 7-Eleven Stores. Professionally I've known people wealthy enough to start foundations that — in contrast to politician’s foundations — give away their own money.

Yet, in all that time not one of these plutocrats has seen fit to give me a $6500 watch or take my wife on a $15,000 shopping spree. But then I've never been elected governor either.

Election to high office instantly makes even the biggest blowhard a veritable friend magnet. Just look at Joe Biden. All these strangers suddenly become close family friends. Wives are swapping recipes, the men smoking cigars, and every day has the potential to be Christmas.

Which brings us to Virginia and former governor Bob McDonnell who was just sentenced to two years for essentially selling his office to a wealthy friend.

New best friend forever, Jonnie Williams, the CEO of Star Scientific, appeared just after the ballot–counting concluded, essentially adopting the McDonnells. A partial list of the booty includes $120,000 in no–document loans to forestall foreclosure on a rental property, a $6500 Rolex, two sets of golf clubs, plane tickets, flights on private planes, tickets to the Final Four, a vacation on Cape Cod, a vacation in Virginia, two iPhones, a $17,000 shopping spree for the wife in New York City, $15,000 for catering at one daughter’s wedding, $10,000 wedding gift to another daughter, many rounds of free golf, and free drinks at an exclusive country club. Williams also sent his brother over to perform odd jobs and carpentry on the rental property.

The McDonnell’s were so crass and so greedy I’m hesitant to describe them as nouveau riche. I have French friends and don’t want to insult them by associating their language with these freeloaders.

I suppose a conservative might look on the bright side and be glad Williams, and not taxpayers, was footing the bill. But not so fast, the Kardashians, excuse me, the McDonnells were billing taxpayers for breakfast Boost, body wash, sunscreen, colon blow, dry cleaning, shoe repairs, and dog food. And that doesn’t include the $2,400 worth of food and booze the kids stole from the mansion pantry to take back to college.

Naturally the left blames this on a lack of rules and regulations and not the McDonnells’ lack of an ethical compass. Democrats in the legislature want a ban on gifts over $50 and an ethics commission to enforce an encyclopedia of rules. This is what passes for a job creation in Democratic circles, expand government, hire bureaucrats, encourage legal influence peddling by lobby firms made up of defeated Democrats and former staffers.

All of this is unnecessary. There’s a conservative solution that saves money, leaving  voters in charge. Simply ban all gifts from anyone the officeholder hasn’t known since high school to members of his immediate family; and ban loans or other financial gifts to any S–corporation or partnership in which the politician has an interest. The officeholder himself can accept anything from anyone at anytime.

All he has to do is issue monthly disclosure of any gift valued over $10, who gave the gift and how long the giver has been a good friend of the family rounded off to the nearest second.

False filing or failure to file means a felony perjury charge with mandatory jail sentence.
Problem solved.

Voters can compare gifts received with votes cast and if the result doesn’t pass the smell test the situation can be remedied at the ballot box. No commission, no regulations, no loopholes, and no expansion of government.

In the meantime, I have a list of gift guidelines guaranteed to keep officeholders out of jail:
  • Don’t take a gift from any friend made after high school unless it comes with a receipt — preferably from Walmart.
  • Don’t buy stock in a friend's hot company — if you didn’t know him in high school.
  • Even if you knew him in high school, don’t take any gifts from a company with "science" in the name that isn’t run by someone in a lab coat.
  • Don’t hitch a ride on an airplane, yacht, or submarine owned by a stranger you met after high school, unless you all chip in for gas.
  • Don’t accept free vacation housing from a  friend you met after high school, unless it’s a tent.
Michael R. Shannon is a commentator, researcher (for the League of American Voters), and an award-winning political and advertising consultant with nationwide and international experience. He is author of "Conservative Christian’s Guidebook for Living in Secular Times (Now with added humor!)." Read more of Michael Shannon's reports — Go Here Now.

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There’s a conservative solution that saves money, leaving voters in charge. Simply ban all gifts from anyone the officeholder hasn’t known since high school to members of his immediate family; and ban loans or other financial gifts.
Joe Biden, Bob McDonnell, Star Scientific, Jonnie Williams, Walmart
Friday, 20 February 2015 10:48 AM
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