Those of us who live in the Seventh Congressional District, which includes most of Seattle, have reason to be proud. Not only do we have the distinct honor of being represented by the only congressman currently being sued by another member of Congress, but our congressman is also the only one who, best I can tell, brags about lying to his constituents.
In essence, Representative Jim McDermott has dared his constituents to vote him out of office for lying about a plot to nail former GOP bogeyman Newt Gingrich. When asked why he lied about his role in trying to bring Newt down, McDermott said it was just "politics," even wrapping himself in the First Amendment. This ignores the fact that McDermott violated federal privacy laws.
It's your classic case of sex, lies, and audiotape, and it all started in 1997. That's when John and Alice Martin of Florida, who had a penchant for monitoring and taping cell phone conversations, struck political gold. They came across a GOP strategy session in which Republicans were trying to figure out how to spin the settlement that then-Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich had just reached on ethics violations. Gingrich, who was in a race for reelection as Speaker, had just agreed to a House reprimand for questionable fundraising, and would pony up $300,000 for violating House ethics rules.
One small problem: Taping cell phone conversations in Florida happens to be illegal. (The Martins have since admitted to taping the call, and have paid their $500 fine.) But the pair soldiered on and handed the tape over to our trusty congressman, Rep. James McDermott (D-Seattle), who in turn summoned a pair of reporters to have a listen.
Representative John Boehner (R-Ohio) accused McDermott of leaking the tape, and filed a civil suit against McDermott. McDermott claimed to know nothing about it. But that all changed when he was under oath. According to new court documents in the case of Boehner v. McDermott, our congressman admitted to being the source of the leak and lying about it five years ago. Of course, since McDermott has somewhat greater job security than the O'Doul's man at a George W. Bush Christmas party, he saw little political risk in coming clean. "People frankly don't care," McDermott said last week.
Well, they should. The most disturbing part of McDermott's reaction last week was his wink-and-nudge response, that everyone should have known he was lying through his teeth.
"Who is there that didn't believe I did it?" he asked.
And you wonder why we're cynical about government.