Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Politics confuses me sometimes

Here’s what I just don’t get about the strange case of County Councilman Chuck McCullough, once the single biggest rising star of the local Republican party who even I suggested might be a future candidate for Allegheny County Chief Executive.

This is America and one of the great things about America is that the standards to put someone in jail are all geared to ensure no one is wrongly convicted. Innocent until proven guilty is something we are all proud of and at this point it is quite true the Councilman remains unconvicted of any crime. While he may contest the accusations against him, even the minor points include a few things that are beyond the pale. Things like paying his sister $60/hour to be an unskilled companion. Forget the $millions it looks like he was trying gain control of or any of the other issues he is accused of presently. Beyond any criminality, it's hard to see what defense he has against the charge he was exploiting his client.

Something nobody has said explicitly, but I have to ask the obvious. People forget the odd story of how he was elected in the first place. How does someone who has dropped out of a race, also forced out of his day job and being hit with media coverage of the worst kind still get elected? The core accusations are that he was using Mrs. Jordan's money for political contributions that she would not have condoned. Sizable contributions . Did McCullough buy his way to elected office? Sure seems that way no matter how the preliminary hearings taking place come out. With audacity only a politician could muster, he said at the time it was was the 'Hand of God' behind his unlikely victory.

I hope most agree that the standards to merely keep out of jail are not the same for example as the standard to keep your job, any job. Most of us would lose our jobs given allegations of wrongdoings far less conclusive than what the news is reporting for this case. In fact the Councilman has resigned his regular job as the solicitor for Upper St. Clair, yet remains in elected office?? You really hope that the standards to hold public office and retain the support of the public are even farther removed from the standards of a criminal conviction. Given what is fairly well known about the case I would think some public officials would take it upon themselves to resign voluntarily. That’s not to say I am not overly surprised the Councilman remains on the job. Many a politician is defiant to the end even in the face of much greater public outcry. Just think of this Blago character.

He does not resign of course because nobody really seems to want him to. There isn't much public outcry. What I just don’t get at all is why there is almost nobody out there calling for him to resign or be removed from office. Virtual silence on the whole situation is coming from both inside and outside of the County Court House nor from anywhere else. Judging from the news coverage of the situation, none of the Councilman’s colleagues of either party are saying much at all about the situation. It’s like it isn’t happening. You would think the bar association would be interested in some of the proceedings, but again at least as far as what I read in the news it just isn't an issue. Maybe some things are cooking, but it’s all just odd when you think about it.

When you consider the fireworks that would erupt in almost any political body over far less egregious issues you have to ask what is up here? Just imagine if instead of being accused of bilking a little old lady of six figures, or potentially getting nefarious access to a $15 million dollar trust, he merely gave a stereo worth a few hundred dollars to a potential client. Almost makes me have some sympathy for Pat Ford et al. Almost. The comparison to the amounts in play with Twanda's misappropriation raises a real question to me. When you take into account the truth that the money Twanda used illegally was from council discretionary budgets, money that one could argue was probably going to be used badly no matter what... then her crimes pale in comparison to what is being accused here.. in this McCullough case there are real people who essentially had their retirement assets stolen. Bad enough even if the victim was not an elderly woman in need of protection. I must be missing something. If, and I repeat if, indeed this all goes badly in criminal court for the Councilman, some of us will look to see how the sentence he gets compares to what Twanda recently completed.


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