On Saturday night, we attended a dinner sponsored by the county’s Democratic women’s group, the highlight of which was an appearance by U.S. Congressman Zack (“Call me Zack”) Space. The dinner was pleasant enough—and, depending on who was sitting at your table, downright entertaining—but Zack’s speech was the reason most of us were there.
Let me give you some background on Pigspittle politics. Our congressional district, Ohio’s 18th, was cobbled together by gerrymandering and looks something like an elongated kidney bean. Comprised entirely of small towns, farmland, and the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, this district is as red as it gets. Prior to Zack’s election in 2006, we were represented by the infamous Bob Ney, now ensconced in a federal prison somewhere for accepting a lavish golf trip to Scotland from the Abramoff machine.
In 2006, the battle for Ney’s seat came down to Zack, representing the Democratic ticket, and Joy Padgett, the Republican recruit whose business dealings were no less scandalous than Ney’s. Those of us who worked in Pigspittle’s Democratic headquarters were cautiously optimistic of Zack’s chances. We were also aware of the half-dozen home school kids who were outside our office every day waving signs and chanting for the Republicans as cars drove through the town square.
Zack won the election by a healthy margin, taking 64% of the vote. He even held the majority in Pigspittle County, a miracle given that the last time a Democrat was elected to the House, according to Zack, was in the early sixties.
This brings us back to Zack’s speech on Saturday. While he did discuss, with some humility and humor, his experiences thus far in Washington (he remarked on that East Coast phenomenon that is peculiar to those of us from the Midwest: no one on the street says hello except the vagrants), he also explained his recent vote in favor of funding the Iraq War—no doubt he recognized he was among Pigspittle’s most liberal. While I know some of my fellow Pigspittlians disagree with Zack’s position, few are prepared to hold it against him. It took too much work to get him to Washington in the first place.
This fact segues nicely into the remainder of Zack’s talk: the not surprising but still chilling prospect that the Fightin’ 18th is in Karl Rove’s crosshairs.
As Zack revealed on Saturday, Rove has ranked him high up on the list of Democrats to defeat. In fact, Zack appears in the Powerpoint presentation given by Rove’s deputy during a meeting of General Services Administration (GSA) officials in January. It was the height of Rovian cynicism: One slide, titled “GOP Losses From Scandal, Complacency,” which illustrates how 10 “losing GOP candidates were tainted by scandal,” was shown at the very moment that the GSA was complicit in a scandal of its own—politicizing its meeting with a slideshow and calls for support of Republican candidates.
According to the Washington Post, GSA chief Lurita Alexis Doan was recently found in violation of the federal Hatch Act by the U.S. Office of Special Counsel. Tomorrow, she will testify again before the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform led by Rep. Harry Waxman. The Hatch Act was created to restrict executive branch employees from using their position for political purposes. In his letter to Doan, Special Counsel Scott J. Bloch (under investigation, as well, for retaliating against his employees) recommended “that the President take appropriate disciplinary action against you for your serious violation of the Hatch Act.”
What’s the big deal? For starters, Doan allegedly encouraged federal employees to think of ways to assist Republican candidates—such as building projects, groundbreaking ceremonies, opportunities for Republicans to gain favorable press while the opposition gets none. In districts like Pigspittle’s, that kind of subtle effort gives Republicans a huge advantage. Couple this with an RNC bankroll and the competition becomes formidable.
That’s why the Hatch Act exists. (Fun fact: Twice, Congress tried to loosen the Hatch Act so that government employees could participate in political campaigns. When it passed both Houses in 1990, President George H.W. Bush vetoed it.)
Suffice it to say, Rove is still trying to turn our government into a single party state and that should be of concern to us all—Democrats, Independents and Republicans alike.
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