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Thursday, September 30, 2004

Hint: His Name Is a Synonym for "Cunctation" 

Remember the story that Tim Noah of Slate was pursuing so diligently ten months ago?
Rep. Nick Smith, R-Mich., says that sometime late Nov. 21 or early in the morning Nov. 22, somebody on the House floor threatened to redirect campaign funds away from his son Brad, who is running to succeed him, if he didn't support the Medicare prescription bill. This according to the Associated Press. Robert Novak further reports,
On the House floor, Nick Smith was told business interests would give his son $100,000 in return for his father's vote. When he still declined, fellow Republican House members told him they would make sure Brad Smith never came to Congress. After Nick Smith voted no and the bill passed, [Rep.] Duke Cunningham of California and other Republicans taunted him that his son was dead meat.
Speaking through Chief of Staff Kurt Schmautz, Smith assured Chatterbox that Novak's account is "basically accurate." That means Smith was an eyewitness to a federal crime. United States Code, Title 18, Section 201, "Bribery of public officials and witnesses," states that under federal law, a person commits bribery if he
directly or indirectly, corruptly gives, offers or promises anything of value to any public official or person who has been selected to be a public official, or offers or promises any public official or any person who has been selected to be a public official to give anything of value to any other person or entity [italics Chatterbox's], with intent to influence any official act.
Promising to direct $100,000 to Rep. Smith's son's campaign clearly meets the legal definition of bribery. The only question, then, is who to prosecute.
Good news for Tim Noah: The New York Times has finally answered that question.

Rep. Smith's belated and frankly less than credible denial that a specific sum was mentioned is apparently all that has prevented the culprit (whose name is a synonym for "obstruct," and who is at the moment fighting off an unrelated grand jury indictment in Texas) from being charged with a federal crime, as opposed to an egregious violation of House ethics rules:
Mr. Smith, who could not be reached for a response on Thursday night, was also admonished by the committee for "speculation and exaggeration" and for "making public statements that risked impugning the reputation of the House." The report said that contrary to his claims, he was never offered $100,000 or any other sum for his son's campaign.
The committee would certainly know better than Smith exactly how much he was offered by the Congressman in question, whose name is a synonym for "retard."

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