Donald Trump’s aggressive and blatant disregard of facts, social norms and the simple concept of telling the truth has given permission to many politicians to blur their own boundaries of ethical behavior.
It hasn’t helped that so many Republican officials have ridden the wave of Trump’s repulsive popularity, condoning his antics and criminal acts at the expense of our democracy.
Trump isn’t the only dishonorable politician, of course. We’ve seen many a Democrat also engage in shady behavior—although not as openly and outrageously as Trump—but most paid the price via prison time or a disgraceful resignation.
• The recent morally bankrupt act of transporting immigrants from Texas and Florida to sanctuary cities in Northern and Western states under false pretenses of jobs, affordable housing and economic support echoes the Reverse Freedom Rides organized in the early ’60s by white supremist groups. The segregationists gave one-way bus tickets to African Americans to travel north, promising good jobs and free housing. The organizers of both efforts tipped off media to ensure coverage of their contemptible behavior, enjoying the limelight at the expense of those struggling to get by—although the recent death of a 3-year-old on a bus chartered by Texas to drop off immigrants in Chicago has left Gov. Greg Abbott sputtering about why he is not to blame.
• Governor Joe Lombardo has been embroiled in a dust-up with the Nevada Commission on Ethics over the repeated use of his Clark County sheriff’s uniform and badge during his 2022 campaign, despite clear guidance that prohibits a law-enforcement officer from doing so. The commission determined the Lombardo campaign “willfully,” “knowingly and repeatedly” engaged in numerous ethics violations. While the commission’s lawyers wildly overreached with a recommended fine of $1.67 million, based on their count of 68 violations, they ultimately settled on a $20,000 penalty with a censure as a consequence of Lombardo’s refusal to change his campaign practices, even after twice being formally notified he was breaking the rules.
It’s worth noting that the two votes opposing the governor’s censure and fine came from the two members who were just appointed by the governor to fill vacancies—a bad look for the governor and the new members alike. Lombardo has said he plans to appeal the decision, presumably deciding it’s worth the time, attention and lawyers’ fees to defend his flaunting of campaign ethics.
• Lombardo also engaged in a recent public battle with legislative Democrats over the funding of private school “opportunity scholarships,” whereby businesses can reduce their tax obligations by making donations to a scholarship fund to pay private and religious school tuition. Don’t be misled: You and I are really paying these bills. The businesses don’t actually make a donation, as they receive the same amount in tax credits.
Lombardo wanted the Legislature to greatly expand the taxpayer-funded private-school program but was met with a wall of opposition from Democrats during the session who were rightfully more concerned about adequately funding public schools. When Lombardo didn’t prevail, he demanded the Interim Finance Committee allocate $3.2 million in COVID relief funds to allow currently enrolled children to maintain their scholarships this school year. Prior to the vote, Lombardo denounced Democrats’ “act of callous partisanship,” saying: “Forcibly removing hundreds of low-income students from their schools after the school year has already begun is devastating and simply incomprehensible.”
What Lombardo did not reveal was that a private entity used to disperse scholarship funds, the AAA Scholarship Foundation, had gobbled up the entire $6.6 million in available state funds, leaving nothing for families served by other entities—and was sitting on more than $13 million in reserves, claiming they might need the money over the next three years to enroll siblings and meet obligations. When Democrats refused to budge, the foundation suddenly decided to release sufficient funding to cover this year’s school bills, demonstrating a ready-made solution was there all along, if Lombardo hadn’t been so focused on using these children as pawns in an ideological struggle over funding public education.
It was a shameful display of manufactured outrage from our governor, who seemed oblivious to the irony that thousands of public school children will be affected by his veto of universal school lunches. But there are not many political points Lombardo can leverage from his refusal to feed hungry children.