Grift Versus Theft
Everyone today has been discussing this sophomoric and sloppy piece in Politico Magazine by former Rep. Steve LaTourette. Erick has already pointed out the delicious irony involved in the banally (yet profoundly) crooked Steve LaTourette accusing anyone of grift (see here and here). It is definitely a valid point that LaTourette’s entire career is testimony to the idea that belonging to the “governing wing” of the Republican Party is really another way of saying that you belong to the “corruption wing” of the Republican Party.
But let’s perform an interesting thought experiment. Let’s assume that Steve LaTourette has a point. Let’s ignore the fact that LaTourette and his ilk, who fatten themselves daily at the lobbyist corporate cronyism trough, make salaries that dwarf those of Matt Kibbe, Chris Chocola, and Jenny Beth Martin. Let’s ignore that an allegedly “infamous craft beer bar” would not count among the top 100 amenities of the posh DC lobbying offices favored by LaTourette and the Republicans he prefers. Let’s say that what LaTourette points to is evidence of genuine excess on the part of some conservative groups who ought to be better stewards of donor money. Heck, that might even be a valid point with respect to some or many of these groups. What then?
What then is that we can at least say about these groups that all the donors in question gave to these groups of their own free will and had access at any time to the financial records of these groups and publicly available tax returns detailing expenditures (including the salaries of key personnel).
LaTourette and the corporate crony Republicans he favors, on the other hand, are just as guilty of taking money from people and funneling it into lavish expenditures on apparent nonsense and even more exorbitant salaries, but with one crucial difference: nobody who gave money to the crony capitalism causes favored by LaTourette and his wing of the GOP gave their money voluntarily. Rather, it was forcibly confiscated from them through the IRS, who would have taken their belongings and sent them to jail if they did not pay. At no point were they given the option to discontinue contributing to programs that they considered wasteful or profligate, or to demand an easy-to-understand accounting of how their tax dollars were being spent. Because after all, money that is spent by the government eventually has to be raised, and the way government makes money is by forcibly confiscating it from its citizens via taxation.
And yet after all this; after the government at the behest of LaTourette and his fellow crony capitalists have “compromised” their way into spending the country into a backbreaking tax burden on this generation and subsequent generations, some people still have money left over to freely donate to people who are working to send people to Congress who will stop the forcible confiscation of their money and redistribution of it to well-connected and lobbied corporate interests.
And make no mistake, that is what really galls Steve LaTourette – that some people have the nerve to send their money where they think it ought to go rather than where Steve LaTourette and the rest of their intellectual betters think it ought to go. If it is fair to call money that has been freely donated out of a belief that men like Ted Cruz will be elected “grift,” then it is fair to call LaTourette’s entire career, and the career of countless other Republicans like him, who have taken money confiscated by force and given it to people who had no legitimate public right to it or use for it, by another word.
That word is “theft.”