Friday, December 26, 2003

Mr. Smith goes to Washington

Some new developments in the attempted bribery of Rep. Nick Smith (R-MI) during the "15 minute" three-hour vote on Medicare deform. (No, that's not a typo.)

Timothy Noah, writing in Slate for December 23, notes that in addition to Smith's own original allegations, for which he includes links to the audio, the Washington Post reports that two Representatives heard Smith tell them and the rest of a group of about 20 House members that House Republican leaders had promised substantial financial and political support for his son's campaign if Smith voted yes.

At least four people who were in that group have actually gone on record supporting the statement that Smith had said he'd received offers of support for his son. One even specified that Smith said the offer came from the House GOP leadership. As the Post has it,
Rep. Gil Gutknecht (R-Minn.), who was present at the dinner, recalled Smith saying it was "people from leadership" who had offered the money. He said Smith did not say who it was, but he assumed it was someone who controlled a "large leadership PAC, who can raise a hundred thousand dollars by hosting a few fundraisers."

"I think something happened," Gutknecht said. "If it happened, then somebody in the leadership is guilty of at least gross stupidity.... Whoever made that comment should resign."

Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-Colo.), who was also at the dinner, recalls Smith telling the group that "someone had said his son ... would be the beneficiary if he would vote for the bill, up to the tune of about $100,000.... If Nick Smith said it happened, it happened."

Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) recalls Smith telling the group that his son was promised an endorsement and funds from the National Republican Congressional Committee. ...

"It's all going to be just as Nick said," said Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett (R-Md.). "When you see people making more than a million dollars a year on K Street, there is just too much money in the process."
For his part, Smith has backpedaled on his charge, getting vague about from just where the offer came and of just what it consisted. But in light of the fact that others have openly acknowledged he made the accusation, that seems much more an act of party loyalty than a correction of an error. However, as Noah notes, Smith has said that he "will cooperate with any official inquiry," which certainly appears to mean that he'll tell the truth if he's asked directly in the course of an investigation.

The only question now is if there will be one. If it's left up to John Ashcroft, we already know the answer to that.

Footnote: Thanks to Counterspin for tumbling me to the Slate article.

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