The Bigger Problem in the Womack Bribe Story

by Mark Moore

FROM ARKANSAS WATCH: Freshman Republican State Representative Richard Womack of Arkadelphia claims ( http://www.thearkansasproject.com/richard-womack-no-pie-for-me/ ) that lobbyists offered him inducements to change his vote and support the “Private Option” – I.E. Obamacare for crony capitalists. Since the passage of the so-called “Private” Option will result in a special interest windfall worth hundreds of millions of dollars annually, transferred from our pockets to those of the hospitals and insurance industries in this state, strong motive does exist to offer such inducements.

 

One debate that rages around this issue is whether on not Richard Womack should file a crime report. While the language that the lobbyist used indicated that the lobbyist may have believed their actions were legal (though crass and sleazy) the Arkansas Constitution’s description of a bribe sounds a lot like what went down here. The main difference, and this may be why no crime was attempted, was that the lobbyist did not offer to give anything to Womack for his personal use, but only to his re-election campaign fund.

 

Let me hasten to add that eight legislators changed their votes in the space of about twenty hours around this time. If you are wondering if any other legislators took the money that Womack refused, an excellent place to look would be the names that voted AGAINST funding the “private option” of Obamacare on the afternoon of April 15th, but then voted FOR the “private option” of Obamacare on the morning of the 16th! Whether it technically fits the legal definition of a bribe or not, morally, this was a bribe. It looks from here like some people took it.

 

But let me quote to you what Rep. Womack told intrepid reporter Nicolas Horton and see if you can spot the most disturbing part of the whole story…. “A lobbyist asked me if I would consider changing my vote [on the private option] for $20,000-$30,000 in my campaign account, as soon as they could put it in there legally, and two elections unopposed.” That is right friends, even more disturbing than the bribe attempt with money, was the bribe attempt with respect to offering two elections unopposed. Womack was shocked by that too, and told them that they could not stop someone from running against him. He said the lobbyist replied ““we can see that it’s not a good opponent and that he’s not well funded.”

The most disturbing part of this whole highly disturbing story is that the big lobbies feel that they have their hooks so deep into the two parties that they can go around promising legislators that they will have no serious opponent for two election cycles! The Democrat Party will not seek out opposition to Republicans who play ball, and of course the Republican Party will not seek out a primary challenger for those who play ball. Any candidate who challenges one of the bribe-takers will be an “outsider” without support and fund raising help from the party hierarchy.  This is the clear implication of what this lobbyist was saying.

This is one of the major problems with relying on a “party” to represent your interests and protect your freedom. They are a centralized power structure which can be bought off at the top. Bribe money can be “leveraged” by buying off the top of the pyramid. Regardless of whether the individual legislator takes the bribes, the party takes the bribes that these lobbyists are offering. That’s how lobbyists can add the inducement of “no quality opponent for two election cycles” to the direct monetary contribution. This is why conservatives who really want to limit government always wind up as party outsiders.

This can’t be fixed by “taking back” a party. It is an inherent flaw of outsourcing your responsibilities as citizens to a distant power-structure. The structure is not going to keep representing your interests, they are going to represent their own. The only solution is that we citizens are going to have to take back the responsibility we have out-sourced to these power structures and directly select and elect our own legislators through local groups only loosely networked to those in other localities. I hope to have more to say about this in the near future. For now- If you are trusting a political party to select your candidates for you, its not self-government.

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Mark Moore is an advocate of the philosophy of government known as “Localism” as described in the book “Localism, A Philosophy of Government.” (and yes, you should look into it)
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