The Government You Paid For

A continuation

Greg Gianforte, newly-elected Montana representative in Congress, seems to have a lot going for him:

Gianforte co-founded Brightwork Development Inc., a software company, in 1986; he and his partners sold the company to McAfee Associates for $10 million in 1994. He then moved to Bozeman, Montana.

Gianforte founded RightNow Technologies in 1997. The company went public in 2004 and was sold to Oracle Corporation for $1.5 billion in 2011. Before the sale, RightNow Technologies employed about 500 people at its headquarters in Bozeman, Montana, and over 1000 people in total.

Gianforte is a board member of FICO and chair of the board at Petra Academy, a Bozeman, Montana, Christian school.

Just about everybody recognizes this as the road to success. Gianforte seems to have everything going for him. How, then, to account for this:

(CNN) — Greg Gianforte, less than 24 hours removed from being charged with assault for “body-slamming” a reporter, won the Montana special election on Tuesday night.

So, now what?
We know two things for sure.
1. Gianforte will appear in court sometime between now and June 7 to find out whether he will be convicted on a misdemeanor assault charge.
2. Republicans, even if they wanted to, couldn’t refuse to seat him. This was litigated in the late 1960s in a case involving Rep. Adam Clayton Powell.

For those not old enough to remember, Adam Clayton Powell was a Democratic congressman who  represented the borough of Harlem in New York City. Here was another who had everything going for him. Harlem was, and may still be, the center of NYC’s black population, and Powell was the first black man elected from the state of New York to Congress. It seemed like a job for life. Unfortunately he wanted more. From Wikipedia:

By the mid-1960s, Powell was increasingly being criticized for mismanaging his committee’s budget, taking trips abroad at public expense, and missing meetings of his committee. When under scrutiny by the press and other members of Congress for personal conduct—he had taken two young women at government expense with him on overseas travel—he responded:

I wish to state very emphatically… that I will always do just what every other Congressman and committee chairman has done and is doing and will do.”

Opponents led criticism in his District, where his refusal to pay a 1963 slander judgment made him subject to arrest; he also spent increasing amounts of time in Florida.

In January 1967, the House Democratic Caucus stripped Powell of his committee chairmanship. The full House refused to seat him until completion of an investigation by the Judiciary Committee. Powell urged his supporters to “keep the faith, baby,” while the investigation was under way. On March 1, the House voted 307 to 116 to exclude him. Powell said, “On this day, the day of March in my opinion, is the end of the United States of America as the land of the free and the home of the brave.”

Powell won the Special Election to fill the vacancy caused by his exclusion, but he did not take his seat, as he was filing a separate suit. He sued in Powell v. McCormack to retain his seat. In November 1968, Powell was re-elected. On January 3, 1969, he was seated as a member of the 91st Congress, but he was fined $25,000 and denied seniority. In June 1969, in Powell v. McCormack, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that the House had acted unconstitutionally when it excluded Powell, as he had been duly elected by his constituents.

What the Court ruled was that the people in his district held sway over any power vested in members of Congress. They could not refuse to seat a properly-elected member. That was of no avail to Powell, as his constituents responded in their own  voice and cast him aside in the next election.

And that’s that concerning miscreant congressmen, and I am not even bringing up the matter of Wilbur Mills and the Argentine stripper in the Tidal Basin Pool.

So, what is the duty of the United States Congress with respect to members who embarrass themselves and the Congress? I’m guessing it depends on what a member does. And what exactly did now Congressman Gianforte do? Details are available. No video exists of the encounter between Gianforte and the reporter, but YouTube has an audio, and The Atlantic has a transcript from that recording:

Ben Jacobs, a reporter for The Guardian: …the CBO score. Because, you know, you were waiting to make your decision about health care until you saw the bill and it just came out…

Greg Gianforte, the congressional candidate: Yeah, we’ll talk to you about that later.

Jacobs: Yeah, but there’s not going to be time. I’m just curious—

Gianforte: Okay, speak with Shane, please.

[loud scuffling noises, an even louder crash, repeated thumping]

Gianforte: [shouting] I’m sick and tired of you guys!

Jacobs: Jesus chri—!

Gianforte: The last guy that came in here, you did the same thing! Get the hell out of here!

Jacobs: Jesus!

Gianforte: Get the hell out of here! The last guy did the same thing! You with The Guardian?

Jacobs: Yes! And you just broke my glasses.

Gianforte: The last guy did the same damn thing.

Jacobs: You just body-slammed me and broke my glasses.

Gianforte: Get the hell out of here.

Jacobs: You’d like me to get the hell out of here, I’d also like to call the police. Can I get you guys’ names?

Unidentified third man: Hey, you gotta leave.

Jacobs: He just body-slammed me.

Unidentified third man: You gotta leave.

Make what you want of this, but this gives the impression of a politician so sure of his election that he believes nothing he does will derail it. He comes close to being correct on that point.

The take out from the exchange is that reporter Jacobs wanted to question Gianforte about his take on  the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) evaluation of the health care bill just passed by the House of Representatives. By all accounts the CBO results reveal the House failed miserably at their goal of providing an adequate replacement for the Affordable Care Act (ACA) passed by the Obama administration.

My impression is that Gianforte, no friend of the previous President and his ACA, felt the reporter was aiming to embarrass him by forcing him to defend this unpopular piece of legislation. Besides, Gianforte was in the process of setting up for another interview, and he felt Jacobs was intruding. By any measure, Gianforte’s response was over the top in the best meaning of the term. He puts Jacobs off with, “Okay, speak with Shane, please.” Then, for reasons not yet explained, he does more. The audio records no other exchange of words before there is the sound of Jacobs being thrown to the floor by Gianforte. That rapid thumping mentioned in the transcript is apparently Gianforte landing blows on Jacobs. WTF?

The Congressman’s initial response to accusations that he assaulted a reporter was less than candid:

Gianforte’s campaign has challenged the claim, alleging that the reporter grabbed Gianforte’s wrist and was overly aggressive after asking the question.

That turkey did not fly. Others dispute his disclaimer. Continuing from the foregoing:

However, a Fox News reporter who witnessed the incident has written that Gianforte “grabbed Jacobs by the neck with both hands and slammed him into the ground behind him.” She also noted, “To be clear, at no point did any of us who witnessed this assault see Jacobs show any form of physical aggression toward Gianforte.”

If this is any indication, the United States is returning to its rough and tumble days of two centuries ago:

Preston Smith Brooks (August 5, 1819 – January 27, 1857) was an American politician and Member of the US House of Representative from South Carolina, serving from 1853 until his resignation in July 1856 and again from August 1856 until his death.

Brooks, a Democrat, was a fervent advocate of slavery and states’ rights. He is primarily remembered for his May 22, 1856 assault upon abolitionist and Republican Senator Charles Sumner; Brooks beat Sumner with a cane on the floor of the United States Senate in retaliation for an anti-slavery speech in which Sumner verbally attacked Brooks’ second cousin, Senator Andrew Butler. Brooks’ action was applauded by many Southerners and abhorred in the North. An attempt to oust him from the House of Representatives failed, and he received only token punishment in his criminal trial. He resigned his seat in July 1856 to give his constituents the opportunity to ratify his conduct in a special election, which they did by electing him in August to fill the vacancy created by his resignation. He was reelected to a full term in November 1856 but died five weeks before the term began in March 1857.

There is a reason they don’t allow guns in the Capitol Building.

But we don’t have to  go that far. Here’s something from a few years back:

United States congressional representatives are elected by people in their districts, and they meet in Washington, D.C. to make laws. That much I think I have figured out. What the representatives do is news, stuff of interest. News reporters tell us all this stuff. That’s one way we get the news. But stories about reporters interviewing congressional representatives are not news. Usually. Here’s how I first learned of the story:

On January 28, 2014, NY1-TV political reporter Michael Scotto was interviewing Grimm in a balcony-hallway of the U.S. Capitol building, asking him about his thoughts on the just-ended 2014 State of the Union Address. He then tried to question Grimm about his campaign finance controversies. Grimm stated that he would only discuss the State of the Union speech, and not the investigation; as Scotto started to mention the investigation again, Grimm walked off. Scotto then turned to the camera and implied that Grimm didn’t want to face the issue on-camera. Grimm then appeared to intimidate Scotto, saying that he would “break (Scotto) in half”, as well as threatening to throw Scotto over the balcony.

Grimm issued a statement defending his behavior, saying that he was annoyed by what he called a “disrespectful cheap shot” from Scotto. The next day, Grimm contacted Scotto to offer an apology for his behavior, which Scotto deemed to be sincere. He also issued a written statement apologizing for his behavior, saying, “I shouldn’t have allowed my emotions to get the better of me and lose my cool.”

That was Congressman Michael Grimm, who at one time represented Staten Island and a section of Brooklyn. Congressman Grimm’s trouble stemmed not from  his encounter with a reporter but with his shady business dealings, for which he did time.

I feel I am not the only one to sense a rising  pugilistic response to pesky reporters. With the marked political polarization that accompanied the election of a liberal black man to the highest office, conservative voters are leaning more and more toward candidates who favor action over words, and stronger words whenever possible. “I’m sick and tired of you guys!” and “The last guy that came in here, you did the same thing! Get the hell out of here.” and Get the hell out of here! The last guy did the same thing! You with The Guardian?”

“You with The Guardian?” It’s starting to matter which news outlet you work for how you get treated, or mistreated. But the image headlining this post proclaims, “Body slam every journalist.” That was later removed by the East Tarrant County Tea Party. Apparently no news really is good news.

What we are left with is a contingent of the United States government fiercely at odds with mainstream media, which is to say at odds with people and organizations that bring in the real, often bad, news. The current President calls it fake news and also calls mainstream media an enemy of the people. He is also the president who previously claimed he could shoot somebody on Fifth Avenue (in New York) and not lose any supporters. It would appear we are starting to get the government we paid for.

And may Jesus have mercy on our souls.

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2 thoughts on “The Government You Paid For

  1. Pingback: Is too late for me to get my money back? | Skeptical Analysis

  2. Pingback: The Government You Paid For | Skeptical Analysis

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