A funny thing seems to be happening, as we get closer to November 2nd, the level of controversy surrounding the candidacy of several prominent Tea Party candidates seems to be either emerging or increasing. The list spans a who’s who of some of the most prominent Tea Party candidates now running on the platform of bringing meaningful change to American politics.
First there’s Rick Scott running for Governor in Florida. Scott has been a vociferous opponent of health care reform, having spent millions to oppose reform. However, his former company was the beneficiary of Medicare and Medicaid monies totally in the millions if not billions. In fact even the conservative magazine “The American Spectator” called Scott’s company’s actions into question: ” His business record is also likely to draw fire. Scott was pushed out from Columbia/HCA in 1997 in the midst of a fraud investigation that led to a $1.7 billion settlement on charges that the company overbilled state and federal health care programs. While he was never charged with any wrongdoing himself, Scott was the head of the company – and thus the situation will garner more scrutiny now that he’s a political candidate.” Then there is an amplifying article that appeared a month later in the Florida paper; The Sun Sentinel, by Sally Kestin: “Rick Scott, who ran a company involved in the nation’s largest Medicare fraud case, wants to be Florida’s governor…Rick Scott was co-founder and CEO of Columbia/HCA in the 1990s, when the FBI launched a massive, multi-state investigation that led to the company pleading guilty to criminal charges of overbilling the government….Scott considers himself a health care pioneer who significantly cut costs and improved patient care. But his decision to enter the race and his explanation of what occurred at Columbia/HCA is rankling some of those familiar with the fraud scandal.”
Next there is Rand Paul, who has called for restraint in health care spending so long as it does not go so far as to impact his own income. Paul’s hypocrisy is so obvious that even the Murdoch owned Wall Street Journal could not bear to ignore this fact and reported on it in a mid-May article appearing in it’s Washington Wire: “Tea Party favorite Rand Paul has rocketed to the lead ahead of Tuesday’s Republican Senate primary here on a resolute pledge to balance the federal budget and slash the size of government. But on Thursday evening, the ophthalmologist from Bowling Green said there was one thing he would not cut: Medicare physician payments In fact, Paul – who says 50% of his patients are on Medicare – wants to end cuts to physician payments under a program now in place called the sustained growth rate, or SGR. “Physicians should be allowed to make a comfortable living,” he told a gathering of neighbors in the back yard of Chris and Linda Wakild, just behind the 10th hole of a golf course.” So there you have it, doctors are free to run on reforming federal spending so long as their income stream is held harmless. Well if that does not sound a bit hypocritical then what does?
Next on the hit parade of hypocrisy is New York’s Gubernatorial candidate, Carl Paladino whom Greg Smith of the New York Daily News says has grown rich thanks to government handouts and favors. According to Smith’s research: “In a last-minute bid to keep that lucrative government subsidy, records show he overstated the worth of the company that got the break by including properties he’d already sold off. The millionaire Buffalo businessman, who last week became his party’s candidate for governor, has shaped much of his Tea Party message by railing against government spending and vowing Draconian bureaucratic bloodletting. At the same time, he’s received millions of dollars in tax breaks over the years, mostly as payback for investing in distressed properties in and around his native Buffalo, where manufacturing jobs have disappeared and the economy has long been in a free fall.” Thus what we have in New York State is a Tea Party candidate who seems to have filled his pockets at the public trough but who has now “seen the light” on the excesses of government spending and wants to end it, that is, after he more than got his fill from that very trough.
In addition to these issues, the trials and tribulations of Senate candidate Sharron Angle just seem to keep on coming. Today it was reported that Republican Nevada State Senator Bill Raggio has done something he has never done before, endorsed a Democrat. Raggio is throwing his support behind the embattled incumbent, Harry Reid (D-NV) due to what he considers Angle’s glaring shortcomings as a state level politico. In Raggio’s own words: “What is difficult to overlook is her record of being totally ineffective as a four-term assemblywomen, her inability or unwillingness to work with others, even within her own party, and her extreme positions on issues such as Medicare, social security, education, veterans affairs and many others,” Raggio said of Angle…He also challenged his Republican colleagues who have lined up behind Angle’s campaign.”Some supporters tell me we need to support her because we need her vote in the U.S. Senate as a Republican and she ‘can’t do much harm as a junior back bencher,'” said Raggio. “Since when should this be the criteria on how we select and vote for a U.S. Senator to represent our State?”
So what are the voters to believe and how are they to vote for the likes of Paladino, Paul, Scott and Angle among others come election day. Isn’t the Tea Party Movement supposed to represent some sort of catharsis in American politics, a movement to cleanse the system of rot and decay? Is it not supposed to be a citizens revolt against business and politcs as usual, both in Washington and at the state and local level? If so, how is it that individuals of such questionable qualities and backgrounds became some of it’s leading candidates? Has the movement been hijacked by the very political slicksters that it’s supposed to oppose? Are these accomplished political operatives and savy businessmen in the process of taking the rank and file Tea Partiers for the political ride of their lives? Have professional politicians on the right jumped on the bandwagon of reform and revolt all the while hoping to just harness this energy for their own political ends? Or is it the case that the aforementioned candidates, like Paul of Tarsus, have “seen the light” on their own personal road to Damascus. Are they like Constantine at the Battle of Milivan Bridge who looked into the sky, saw a cross, and then went on to win the battle and spread Christianity, the new and revolutionary religon,across the Roman Empire? My educated guess is that it’s the former not the latter.
Steven J. Gulitti