Thursday, June 07, 2012
The Wheels are Coming Off the Clown Car
Over this past Memorial Day weekend, NH House Majority Leader DJ Bettencourt announced he would be resigning from the House, effective June 6. Bettencourt said he was going to be getting married, had a new job, and wasn’t planning to run for re-election, so he was stepping down. This created something of a stir, and not only because he’s been practicing the same kind of pre-marital abstinence that the Palin family has made famous.
A few days later, we learned more about what was really behind the resignation. Bettencourt was supposed to be graduating from the UNH Law School, and had realized earlier in the semester that he didn’t have enough credits. He asked fellow GOP lawmaker and attorney Brandon Guida for an internship. Guida agreed. DJ apparently showed up once, for about an hour. He did, however, submit detailed, falsified reports to the college, about the work he’d done during his internship. Somehow, (we aren’t clear on this) Guida, Speaker O’Brien, and Bettencourt would up discussing this matter. They all agreed that Bettencourt would tell the school that he’d cheated, and announce that he was leaving the legislature for personal reasons. Instead, he announced the new job, and posted a picture of himself on Facebook, at the UNH graduation, wearing a cap and gown, and standing with Senator Olympia Snowe. Guida wasn’t pleased, and he publicly outed Bettencourt for his dishonesty. Or at least some of it. Bettencourt resigned immediately, and the new job – at a right wing non-profit headed up by O’Brien, seems to have gone away.
There are many questions that are still unanswered. It seems that if Bettencourt had done what O’Brien and Guida wanted, we the people would know nothing of Bettencourt’s lack of ethical behavior. It sounds suspiciously like a conspiracy to keep the truth behind that resignation a secret. Furthermore – Bettencourt submitted detailed, bogus reports about his internship to the college. Who wrote those reports? Didn’t they have to be signed off on? Did Bettencourt forge Brandon Guida’s signature? Some are calling for an independent investigation into this matter, and I agree with that. This legislative body certainly can’t be trusted to investigate themselves. The Speaker is certainly not credible – he appears to have been all too willing to cover for his pal Bettencourt.
The Speaker sent out an email to the GOP caucus that stated: "Now we are left with the consequences of this event. There will be those that say that D.J.'s failure and his resignation characterize our current majority. Others will say it characterizes the leadership of our caucus. Neither is true."
Au contraire. Both are true. This legislature has been a source of ongoing national shame to our state, from the moment they were sworn in. In one of their first acts, the O’Brien junta tried to force Rep. Mike Brunelle to resign for ethics violations. Rep. Brunelle was the Executive Director of the NH Democratic Party, and in fact, earned a salary for doing so. This was not acceptable to the newly minted Speaker, so he tried to make the case that this was unethical. They howled that Brunelle would write legislation that benefitted Democrats! (Because party affiliation never influences the legislation representatives introduce.) This was flat out stupidity.
Sadly for the Speaker, there were many, many instances of Republican representatives that worked for influence groups or other candidates – notably the new Speaker’s own Speaker pro Tempore; Gene Chandler. Chandler had been on Charlie Bass’s payroll, as well as working as a “consultant” for Steward of Prosperity, a group bankrolled by the odious far right activist Fred Tausch. Then it turned out that former Speaker of the NH House, Republican Donna Sytek had also been the Executive Director of the NH GOP while she was serving as a representative. Suddenly the howls turned to harrumphs, and then it just sort of went away, amidst a lot of IOKIYAR: “It’s okay if you’re a Republican.”
A month later, Rep. Martin Harty, the 91 year old freshman legislator had to resign after telling a constituent that it was too bad we couldn’t send people with disabilities off to Siberia to freeze. Harty was the ultimate lesson in what happens when you just vote for anyone who has an “R” next to their name. On the heels of that ugly incident, the ethically challenged DJ Bettencourt distinguished himself by referring to Bishop John McCormack of the Manchester Diocese as a “Pedophile Pimp.”
All of these incidents took place within the first three months of these folks taking office in January 2011. The level of shame has increased, the longer they hold office. The bill to place warning signs at the NH border, the bill to add quotes from the Magna Carta to all new legislation, the bill to teach creationism in the public schools – the list goes on and on. Meanwhile, the Speaker has bullied legislators, retaliated against those who refused to march in lockstep by removing them from their committee assignments, or in the case of disabled GOP Rep. Timothy Copeland, (a police officer, wounded in the line of duty) moving him from an accessible aisle seat to an inaccessible inside row seat, a seat other representatives describe as the most inaccessible seat in the House chambers. O’Brien has run the House as one might expect a petty, vindictive tyrant would. The early promises of transparency never materialized, any more than the promised laser-like focus on jobs.
Instead, this legislature has engaged in all manner of social engineering (need a job? Repeal marriage equality! Property taxes too high? You need to wait 24 hours for an abortion.) They claim to love our state constitution, even as they filed some 33 amendments to it. Apparently they’ll REALLY love it when they rewrite it. Their aim is clear. They know that most of them will have their hind ends handed to them by the voters in November, so they want to enshrine as much evil into our state Constitution as they can, to ensure that the hands of future legislators are tied by their brand of far right ideology.
The wheels are coming off the clown car, and the clowns are spilling out. Unfortunately, they can do a great deal of damage before we’re finally rid of them, and it will take decades to undo what they’ve done to our state.
This was published as an op-ed in the June 8, 2012 edition of the Conway Daily Sun Newspaper.
© sbruce 2012
Posted by susanthe at 5:40 PM