William Hamilton: The path to power: Demonize and criminalize
Grand County, CO Colorado
Since the 1960s, the political landscape has changed from the Jeffersonian ideal of free speech as codified in the First Amendment, to all too successful attempts by some to demonize their political foes and even to criminalize their actions. A case in point is the recent sentencing of former Congressman Tom DeLay to three years in prison for “money laundering and conspiracy to commit money laundering.”
This is not to say that Tom DeLay did not break a Texas law that forbids corporations to donate money to political campaigns. Texas does have such a law, although it is a fair question to ask if that law is a violation of the free political speech we are all supposed to enjoy by virtue of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
Moreover, this is not to say that while such a Texas law exists and while Mr. DeLay has broken that law that he should go unpunished. The law is the law; although Charles Dickens had his character Mr. Bumble famously refer to the law as an animal that is both stupid and stubborn. Actually, he used a synonym for donkey.
The facts of the DeLay case are this: Congressman DeLay and others organized a Political Action Committee (P.A.C.) that raised $190,000 from various Texas corporations. The P.A.C. money went to the Republican National Committee (RNC). The RNC co-mingled the money with other political donations made by private individuals, P.A.C.s, and other legal sources of funding.
Later, the RNC took money it said were from individual contributors and supplied seven Texas state legislative candidates with campaign contributions, the total of which turned out to be $190,000. Since money is fungible, one wonders how, in that instance, the DeLay jury could tell a corporate dollar from an individual dollar?
All seven of the GOP state legislative candidates won their races. As a result, the majority of seats in the Texas legislature shifted from Democrat (where they had been almost since the Alamo) to Republican. That happened just at the time when Texas would take up the subject of redistricting. As a result of the redistricting, Texas became solidly Republican, although obviously not in the very liberal Travis County (Austin) where Mr. DeLay was indicted, tried, and convicted.
This then, brings us to the underlying “crime” for which Mr. DeLay was indicted six years ago by a Grand Jury then led by the highly partisan Democrat, Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle, and now pursued by Earle’s fellow Democrat, Travis District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg. Mr. DeLay’s “crime” is that Ronnie Earle and other Texas Democrats have singled out Tom DeLay as the person responsible for Texas becoming a Republican rather than a Democrat state.
So while it appears that Mr. DeLay has broken a Texas law and is going to a penitentiary for breaking that law, Mr. Delay is, in fact, paying the price for bringing his political party to power in a state in which the other party held political power “since the mind of man runneth not to the contrary.” Lawyers talk like that.
The plight of Tom Delay came to mind during a recent re-reading of William L. Shirer’s Berlin Diary and also the reading of Charles Bracelen Flood’s Hitler: The Path to Power. Those works of non-fiction remind one of how the Nazis would first demonize those who opposed their political agenda. The penultimate step was to change the laws to criminalize the views and actions of those who opposed Nazism. The ultimate step was to eliminate them entirely.
Oh, drat! Forgot the very first step: Pass a law that only the Gestapo, the S.S., the police, and the military may keep and bear arms. That makes the other steps so much easier to achieve.
– Nationally syndicated columnist, William Hamilton, was educated at the University of Oklahoma, the George Washington University, the U.S Naval War College, the University of Nebraska, and Harvard University.
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