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Disclaimer: The author of this site maintained the campaign weblog of John Kline's opponent in the 2006 election, which made Congressman Kline a bit testy.

As with all blogs, review the facts carefully and draw your own conclusions.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

John Kline's Ethical Double-Standard

Beware, Bush voters! More Kline flip-floppery ahead!

Of course everyone knows by now that Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Dick Cheney's now-former Chief of Staff, was indicted on October 28th on multiple counts of perjury and making false statements (the legal term for lying). Everyone also knows that the current administration puts a premium on ethical conduct, so when a 2-year investigation into allegations that he exposed a CIA operative resulted in indictment, Libby immediately resigned from his White House job.

At the time, John Kline echoed the administration view that someone under indictment should no longer work at the White House (Star Tribune, October 28, 2005):

Republican Rep. John Kline said that he was troubled by the indictment and that it was "appropriate for [Libby] to step aside until his case is resolved."

Good for him. Some Republicans have felt it necessary to defend Libby or attack Fitzgerald, or Joseph Wilson. But Kline did the right thing. It brings dishonor to the Republican party when Republican officials behave unethically, and other Republicans cover for them. It brings honor to the Republican party when Republicans like Kline acknowledge that Libby's behavior was inappropriate, and disavow such behavior within the party (no, Kline didn't explicitly disavow Libby; I'm giving him the benefit of the doubt here).

Then again, Kline doesn't owe Libby money (so far as I know). This fact might explain the difference between Kline's reaction to Libby's indictment and that of Tom DeLay.

DeLay's indictment was only handed down on September 28th of this year, but speculation that DeLay was in trouble began shortly after the 2004 congressional elections --- at which time, the Republican leadership in the House started to circle the wagons:

House Republicans proposed changing their rules last night to allow members indicted by state grand juries to remain in a leadership post, a move that would benefit Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) in case he is charged by a Texas grand jury that has indicted three of his political associates, according to GOP leaders.

The rules were changed, briefly, before Democrats and public opinion embarrassed the Republican leadership into reversing the rule change.

How did John Kline vote in that closed-door session in November, 2004? We will probably never know, since it was a closed-door session and Kline has used that fact as an excuse not to reveal his vote. However, any reasonable person can conclude Kline voted with DeLay, as the Star Tribune explains in a November 24, 2004 editorial:

Why do we suspect Kline and Kennedy voted with DeLay? For starters, they declined to say how they voted, calling it an "internal party matter." If they had voted against DeLay, what possible motive could they have for keeping the fact secret? On the other hand, if they voted with DeLay and worry that constituents might not exactly like it, they'd have ample reason to hush up.

Then there is the amount of money that DeLay's political action committee has contributed to their campaigns. The figure $10,000 has been cited for both Kline and Kennedy. But that's only for this election cycle. Overall, Kline has received $30,000 from the DeLay PAC, and Kennedy has received $29,500. That puts them near the top of the list in recipients of DeLay's largesse.

Ah, yes. When $30,000 in campaign contributions is involved, suddenly Kline isn't so eager to publicly --- or even privately --- opine that an indicted Republican leader should step down.

And Kline still has DeLay's money. You might think that Kline would want to return the 30 grand, if for no other reason than to insulate himself from the taint of DeLay's wrongdoing. But so far he has not, and indeed he doesn't plan to (Pioneer Press, September 30th 2005):

U.S. Rep. John Kline, who represents Minnesota's 2nd Congressional District, will return $30,000 in campaign contributions he received from Majority Leader Tom DeLay if his national political action committee . . . is convicted of money-laundering, a spokeswoman said Thursday.

Earlier in the day, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee challenged Republican House members, including Kline and two others from Minnesota, to return what it called "tainted DeLay money."

Kline spokeswoman Angelyn Shapiro accused Democrats of spinning the indictment out of proportion.

"What we have here is yet another attempt by the Democratic Party to divert our attention away from their lack of a serious national agenda," Shapiro said.

The Kline campaign makes the valid point that they received $30,000 from DeLay's national PAC, not the Texas-based TRMPAC which is accused of breaking Texas state campaign finance laws. But is it reasonable to assume that DeLay was laundering money through one of his PACs, but not others? If it's true, as Kline insists, that DeLay's national PAC is 'clean', then why would Kline agree to return the money if DeLay is convicted? And why is Kline applying a different ethical standard to Libby than he did to DeLay?

Maybe Kline believes that Libby's alleged perjury is a more serious crime than DeLay's alleged campaign finance and money-laundering violations. Or perhaps Kline believes that White House staffers should be held to a higher standard of conduct than congressional leadership.

Of course it's difficult to ignore the fact that DeLay has $30,000 invested in Kline, and Libby doesn't.

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