So the alleged extortion claim by Assemblyman Chris “Let’s Make a Deal” Edwards took a new and, literally, far-reaching turn on Thursday, as Metro detectives, accompanied by Virginia state troopers, reportedly raided the home/office of GOP activist Tony Dane in Front Royal, Virginia.
Dane is the financier of a PAC that has produced mailers and robo-calls into Mr. Edwards’ district over recent weeks.
Understandably, Metro did not disclose what it was looking for or if they found it, but it is becoming increasingly apparent that Edwards may very well have been wearing a wire for several weeks back in December and January – including during conversations with legislative colleagues.
Until Metro concludes its investigation, only the parties who may have been recorded really know exactly what was said and if any laws were broken. But here’s what’s starting to worry me about this mess…
The key date is January 2, 2015.
Prior to January 2nd, the focus of deal-making with Edwards reportedly had to do with paying off his campaign debt. Edwards was clearly and openly frantic about it.
Now, whether Edwards was soliciting donations in exchange for his caucus leadership vote or whether anyone attempted to bribe him with donations for his leadership vote will remain unknown until Metro finishes its investigation and we see if anyone was, in fact, recorded and exactly who said what.
After January 2nd, however, Edwards was prohibited by law from accepting any further donations.
And it appears that from that point forward, Edwards’ panic shifted to stopping the recall effort that had begun to take shape within his district – especially since it appears his debt problem was resolved thanks to donations such as Gov. Brian Sandoval’s $5,000 Christmas gift!
So Mr. Let’s Make a Deal began asking people what it would take to make the recall disappear. Indeed, such deal-making conversations continued with recall organizers in Mesquite as recently as this week.
Now it’s one thing, if true, for someone to offer an elected official money, in the form of a campaign contribution or otherwise, to change his vote in a leadership election.
But it’s another thing altogether for citizen activists to apply political pressure – in this case with a possible recall campaign – to get a politician to vote a certain way on a certain issue.
In this case, we’re talking about the governor’s proposed $1.3 billion tax hike. The citizens organizing the possible recall committee want Edwards to vote against it. Edwards, however, refuses to take a firm stand and wants to hide his position on it until sometime down the road.
Since the money aspect was removed from this matter on January 2nd, and the offer of money in exchange for a vote would be bribery, not extortion, I’m worried that what Edwards is attempting to do with his alleged extortion accusation is to criminalize hard-ball politics.
Special interests groups, especially organized labor groups such as the teacher’s union and the AFL-CIO, issue political threats all the time.
And indeed, Assembly GOP caucus leaders have been threatening their conservative colleagues with the possible loss of committee assignments and death of their bills if they don’t get in line and stop rocking the boat.
If that’s now considered “extortion,” we’re gonna need to build a lot more jails and hire a lot more Metro detectives!
P.S. Happy Birthday, Ronald Reagan!