Back in February, Chatterbox observed that Rep. Nick Smith, R-Mich., had created a little problem for his son, Brad Smith, who is running to replace his dad in Congress.
The previous November, Nick had accused an unnamed person in the House leadership of pledging $100,000 to Brad's campaign on the condition that Nick support the Medicare drug-benefit bill. (Nick refused.) After Chatterbox and others noted that such an offer would meet the legal definition of bribery, Nick backpedaled, saying in a Dec. 4 press release that "No specific reference was made to money." After a tape recording was produced in which Nick said he'd been offered "$100,000-plus" for Brad's campaign—to hear it, click here—Nick claimed, absurdly, that he'd only mentioned the dollar figure because he'd read it in a column by Robert Novak. By now, the apparent truthfulness of Nick's original accusation, and the apparent falsity of Nick's attempts to take it back, were so compelling that they awakened the previously slumbering House ethics committee, which is launching an investigation.
Nick's latest attempt to explain his way out of all this was to tell students at Michigan's Union City High School that what was done to him met the dictionary definition of bribery but not necessarily the legal one. "Some lawyers say it might not meet the legal definition," he told them, "but it does according to how Webster defines it." If the facts are as Nick originally described them, "Some lawyers" would have to mean, "Lawyers who can't read."
The little problem Nick Smith created for Brad Smith, by halting his whistleblowing in midblow, has to do with fund-raising. As Chatterbox put it back in February, "Every dollar his son now receives from anyone in Washington who's affiliated or friendly with the Republican Party will be subject to the same suspicion. Is this payment for Nick's silence?" Chatterbox predicted this new reality would have a chilling effect on Brad's money-raising efforts in Washington. And so it has.
Last year, Brad's campaign pulled down close to $10,000 from "members' campaign committees or leadership political action committees," according to a Feb. 4 report in Roll Call. Chatterbox noted at the time that only one of those donations—$750 from the re-election committee for Rep. Henry Hyde, R-Ill.—postdated Nick's Medicare-bribe accusation. In addition, four members of Congress contributed, as individuals, a combined total of $2,500 after Nick leveled his accusation.
Now let's look at Brad's latest Federal Election Commission filing, which covers the first three months of this year. This time out, Brad collected no money at all from any leadership political action committees (though he did receive $1,000 from PACs affiliated with Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, and Dan Burton, R-Ind.). Brad did manage to collect $4,000 from members' campaign committees, but one of these was Nick's. Chatterbox can't identify a single member of Congress who donated money to Brad's campaign between January and the end of March.
Things started looking up for Brad last week when he picked up an endorsement from the libertarian Club for Growth, which admires Nick's stalwart refusal to vote for the Medicare bill. The Club for Growth has a lot of money to spend. But they'd better spend it fast. The most recent poll shows Brad trailing the two lead candidates for the nomination, a former state senator and a current state representative. Since March, Brad has dropped six points; he now stands at 10 percent. The primary is Aug. 3. The best way to nudge the Club for Growth would be for Nick to tell the public the full story about who tried to bribe him.
Medicare Bribe Archive:
March 23, 2004: "Kalamazoo Kapitulation!"
Feb. 26, 2004: "FBI Examines Medicare Bribe"
Feb. 4, 2004: "Brad's Little Problem"
Jan. 22, 2004: "Burying the Bribe"
Jan. 8, 2004: "Bob Novak Ate My Brain!"
Dec. 23, 2003: "Now It's a Scandal"
Dec. 8, 2003: "A Drug-Company Bribe?"
Dec. 6, 2003: "Why Smith Can't Recant"
Dec. 5, 2003: "Nick Smith Recants"
Dec. 1, 2003: "Who Tried To Bribe Rep. Smith?"