George Will writes in today’s Washington Post on potential running mates for John McCain:
Three two-term governors might help McCain, including Mississippi’s Haley Barbour, 60. He has two things McCain lacks — impeccable conservative credentials and a genial disposition. He was conspicuously competent in Hurricane Katrina’s aftermath. …
Conspicuously competent? How about conspicuously unethical (link via).
Many Mississippians have benefited from Governor Haley Barbour’s efforts to rebuild the state’s devastated Gulf Coast in the two years since Hurricane Katrina. The $15 billion or more in federal aid the former Republican national chairman attracted has reopened casinos and helped residents move to new or repaired homes.
Among the beneficiaries are Barbour’s own family and friends, who have earned hundreds of thousands of dollars from hurricane-related business. A nephew, one of two who are lobbyists, saw his fees more than double in the year after his uncle appointed him to a special reconstruction panel. Federal Bureau of Investigation agents in June raided a company owned by the wife of a third nephew, which maintained federal emergency- management trailers.
Meanwhile, the governor’s own former lobbying firm, which he says is still making payments to him, has represented at least four clients with business linked to the recovery.
No evidence has surfaced that Barbour violated the law; at the same time, the pattern that emerges from public records and interviews raises “many red flags,” said Ken Boehm, chairman of the National Legal and Policy Center, a watchdog group in Falls Church, Virginia, that investigates the investments of government officials. “At the minimum, the public is entitled to a full explanation of the facts,” he said.
It gets worse from there.
I already have a low opinion of Senator McCain. I would expect this sort of thinking and marketing from him. I expect better from the usually reasonable George Will. Perhaps I’m confusing the quality of his analysis with the quality of his recommendations resulting from his analysis? If so, he should stick solely to the latter.
Unfortunately, Barbour also was a lobbyist for a while, and the right to “petition the government for a redress of grievances” is another part of the First Amendment that the co-author of McCain-Feingold finds unimpressive.
Maybe I should rethink my opinion on the quality of Mr. Will’s analysis. It’s citizens, not lobbyists, that McCain has a problem with. Sure, his public statements suggest Mr. Will’s analysis. But his public (and private) actions do not. Those already in power are free to do much, much more than those not in power.