Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Related Stories?

The timing of these two stories is suspect, but either story certainly merits attention:
Item 1 - New York State Senator Pedro Espada, a Democrat, is under investigation by the FBI and IRS for siphoning $14 million from a government-funded health clinic.
Item 2 - Florida Republicans have had their party American Express records seized by the FBI and the IRS (there they are again!) for hundreds of thousands of dollars in unrelated personal charges.
Hmmmm. Included in that Florida investigation is Marco Rubio, who is challenging Governor Charlie Crist (who has not been named in the probe) for the Senate.
You may remember that it was Crist who angered Florida voters by literally embracing the Obama stimulus package, so much so that the state Republicans have begun to try to force Crist out. Those efforts have not been effective, but Crist has acknowledged the pressure and said he would run as an independent if need be.
The sense I get is that the Espada story provides a certain immunity to the Federal Government and to Obama in particular as its chief executive from charges that Obama's entire administrative plan is to embarass Republicans at each and every turn, where possible.
This of course differs from the Bush program of, um, "selectively investigating" Democrats using the full weight of the Department of Justice, in that Obama has not demanded a loyalty oath from the Justice and Treasury Department employees involved in the investigations.
One is forced to wonder, however, at the timing of the Florida investigation: the revelations about Rubio et al certainly could have waited until a more opportune time (even allowing for the obvious politicization charges). The primary election isn't until August 24. The nearest administrative date to this day's story is the June 14 qualifying date.
Unless Crist figures Rubio might be in a Federal penitentiary by then, of course.
All of this occurs in front of a backdrop of GOP backpedalling on opposition to the financial reform regulations that are currently under discussion in Congress.
Still, the timing, while possibly coincidental, is intriguing. Espada is a leader-by-armtwisting in the New York State Senate, having first brought that body to its knees by defecting from the Democratic caucus along with one other Senator, then returning when it became obvious he was in serious trouble either way he sliced the issue.
It should be noted that Espada is only slightly the lesser sleaze of the two defectors. Hiriam Monserrate was recently expelled from the Senate after being convicted for beating his girlfriend up.
Too, Espada's counsel, Steve Pigeon, has a colorful history in Erie County, to put it politely.
The scalp of Espada would be a big coup for the FBI and the IRS. Espada has ducked several nasty controversies in his career, from non-residence in his district to campaign violations in 2008 that racked up $60,000 in fines. And it certainly is big enough to throw a shadow on the Florida investigation and buy the Feds some breathing room.