OK, here’s the background: back in 2011 it came out that in 2008 Congresswoman Shelley Berkley (D, NV-01) intervened to prevent the shutdown of a Nevadan kidney transplant program that was killing patients. It’s important at this point to distinguish between proper and improper responses: for example, it is proper to be concerned about what was reported as being “the only transplant center in Nevada” at the time, which is why a number of Nevadan Members of Congress (including Rep. Dean Heller – this will be important later) joined Rep. Berkley in intervening with the program. Is this clear? Good. Because the problem here – the possibly improper problem – is that the method of intervention involved just happened to involve hiring more medical personnel from a company that just happens to be owned by Berkely’s physician husband (kidney specialist) who also just happens to be a co-owner of one of Berkley’s major corporate campaign contributors.
Funny how it always seems to work out that way, huh?
At any rate, Berkley’s sufficiently questionable that even the lefty apologists over at CREW felt obligated to highlight her shenanigans – and, believe me: CREW hates admitting that a Democrat might be dirty – which is why the House Ethics Committee unanimously voted to start a formal investigation in her activities (H/T Instapundit). This, of course, does not mean that Berkley is going to be arrested on the House floor, or even censured; Congress does not really have a great track record at policing it own. It does mean that Berkley is going to have to spend some time in her upcoming Senate race (facing, right, Dean Heller) explaining why Berkley’s funneling money to her husband. It also means that Berkley’s apologists are going to have to try to create an equivalence between Berkley and Heller that simply does not exist… and cannot exist, unless of course Nevada legalized polyandry while nobody was looking.
Personally? I blame Nancy Pelosi for this. Shelley Berkley came into office in 1998: which means that the Democrats’ retaking of Congress in 2007 happened at precisely the worst psychological moment for her. I’ve long noticed that it takes about three or so successful Congressional elections for it to really sink in to a Member of Congress that they’re likely to be in office for a while. Most Members of Congress manage to come to grips with that. A few decide that this means that they’re invulnerable, and will thus go out and do stupid things of various kinds in that – quite mistaken – belief. In Berkley’s case, well: the Democrats were obviously going to be running Congress for the next generation. Everyone was telling her that the 1994-2006 period was a historical aberration. She had room to be… flexible. Who really cared if Berkley’s nest happened to get feathered in the process of doing her job? Well, who really cared who also mattered?
Well. Turns out that it matters, particularly when it comes to Senate races. In case this needs to be spelled out, let me do so: if you are a legislator and your spouse makes money in a particular field, avoid even the appearance of impropriety when it comes to any legislative decision that would impact your spouse’s business. Because the question isn’t just what’s legal; the question is also what’s right. We don’t send people to Congress to do well for themselves; and if that doesn’t seem fair, well, any legislator who doesn’t like that is welcome to quit.
Moe Lane (crosspost)