A drug-company bribe?

Gossip, speculation, and scuttlebutt about politics.
Dec. 8 2003 7:08 PM

A Drug-Company Bribe?

The Medicare vote scandal, continued.

(Continued from Page 1)

The second reason not to exonerate House members is that lobbyists were not on the floor of the House that night. With the exception of former representatives and senators, lobbyists are never allowed on the House floor or even in the cloakroom just off the floor. Former representatives and senators who are lobbyists, though allowed on the House floor, are forbidden to lobby on the House floor, and according to political scientist Norman Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute, these privileged former legislators tend not to wander onto the floor at all during high-profile votes.

The no-lobbyists rule is significant because most versions of Smith's story prior to his recantation suggest the bribe occurred on the House floor. This is rendered explicitly in a column by Robert Novak that Smith, speaking through an aide, told Chatterbox was "basically accurate":

On the House floor [italics Chatterbox's], Nick Smith was told business interests would give his son $100,000 in return for his father's vote. When he still declined, fellow Republican House members told him they would make sure Brad Smith never came to Congress.

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Chatterbox therefore continues to believe that, in addition to any bribes pharmaceutical lobbyists may have offered directly to Smith, a current member of Congress offered $100,000 in campaign contributions—most likely, from those same pharmaceutical lobbyists—in exchange for Smith's vote. Of course, even if what we have here is "just" a case of attempted bribery by the drug companies, it still warrants our continued attention.

[Update, Dec. 9: Novak, who broke the story that Smith had been offered $100,000 for Brad's campaign if he voted for the Medicare bill, said on CNN's Capital Gang Dec. 6 that the $100,000 "was mentioned by other members of Congress, I understand, not in the leadership." Presumably Novak has that from Smith. Novak also said that the $100,000 offer "was not bribery." He should read the statute.]

Medicare Bribe Archive:
Dec. 6, 2003: "Why Smith Can't Recant"
Dec. 5, 2003: "Nick Smith Recants"
Dec. 1, 2003: "Who Tried To Bribe Rep. Smith?"

Timothy Noah is a former Slate staffer. His  book about income inequality is The Great Divergence.