Man Without Qualities

Saturday, September 21, 2002

The Coming Torricelli Flame-Out

New Jersey Democratic Senator Torricelli has been fighting to keep every fragment of the ethics/bribery case against him as secret from the public as possible.

As noted in a prior post, his efforts are wrongheaded and counterproductive - since they increase suspicions against him (and voter and media hostility), and will probably be worse than ineffectual in that the information he is trying to keep secret will simply escape at what, for him, is the worst possible time.

That worst possible time is starting now - with just weeks until the election. And sure enough "a federal appellate court on Friday ordered the release of a government letter that sought leniency for Cresskill businessman David Chang, convicted of illegal campaign contributions to the senator."

More to come.

Senator Torricelli has ben arguing preposterously and counterproductively that the Chang letter should be kept secret to protect the Senator's "privacy". The appeals court addressed that argument by noting that Torricelli himself has "already made public statements attempting to refute the very material he now wants us to suppress from public view. ... As far as the Senator's privacy was concerned the ink was in the milk.''

My guess is that a lot of Jersey voters - especially the Independents, who are less likely to inhabit an apparent Democratic ethics-free zone - will be thinking about the Senator's inky milk when they enter that booth in November.


The New York Times, in an article that could almost be mistaken for a solicitation for emergency campaign contributions for Mr. Torricelli, reports no anxiety on the part of either the Times or top Democrats that a person so tainted with ethics and bribery charges may again be elected to the Senate as a Democrat. No. No. The Times predictably sounds a different alarm :

Prominent national Democrats now regard Senator Robert G. Torricelli of New Jersey as their party's most vulnerable Senate incumbent, prompting concern that his endangered seat might cost Democrats control of the Senate.

But, of course, to be fair to the top Democrats, their anxiety is not limited to possibly losing the Senate if Mr. Torricelli loses. Some Democrats are, of course, attuned to the larger ramifications of Mr. Torricelli's situation. Such as how that situation might affect the ability of other Democrats to get hold of all the money they want:

Some Democrats also say they are concerned that the party's focus on New Jersey threatens to limit the money and other resources that are available for other Democrats as their party flushes more and more into New Jersey.


And while last week the Times reported that some Democratic voters in New Jersey are deeply troubled by Mr. Torricelli's ethical problems, the same apparently cannot be said of big Democrat donors:

But Mr. McAuliffe and other party leaders also say that the interest generated by the Torricelli race has helped draw more money than they expected. "Bob is bringing millions of dollars in," Mr. McAuliffe said. "If anything, Bob is creating excitement out there and helping raise more money."

That's the spirit, Mr. McAuliffe. Show 'em who got you that job!

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