Coverage of disgraced Sen. Jeff Smith, who resigned his seat earlier this week on the same day he pleaded guilty to two felony counts of conspiracy to obstruct justice, has bordered on the maudlin, with many reporters mentioning his great potential and going into details about the wonderful things he accomplished during his short time in office.
In the resignation letter he sent to supporters, Smith spent far more time talking about his accomplishments than he did the fact that he was a criminal who lied repeatedly to authorities, had no problem with trying to convince others to lie, and did not have a second thought about trying to palm off his sins on a dead man. Does this sound like someone who is contrite?
But I’m proud of my work in the Senate. With the help of my legislative staff, colleagues, and issue advocates, I believe I positively impacted several policy areas. I worked to create the Missouri Teaching Fellows Program to bring top-notch teachers to struggling school districts, expanded early childhood education for impoverished City children, and helped add $5M in bonuses to the salaries of City teachers whose students make exceptional academic progress.
My office spent many hours working with advocates for eco-friendly policies. I led the drive to pass a Green Sales Tax Holiday for energy-efficient appliances, a tax deduction for home energy audits, and a mandate that Missouri increase its energy efficiency standard for state buildings.
Working with the Fathers Support Center of St. Louis, I sponsored and passed two bills that will transform our child-support system. One will help fathers struggling to pay child support avoid felony convictions and jail time by creating “fathering courts” to help non-violent offenders find jobs and resume support payments, saving the state millions in incarceration costs. The second will reduce erroneous paternity judgments and ensure that men with DNA tests showing non-paternity will no longer have to pay for children who are not theirs.
Finally, I helped successfully defend Missouri’s Historic Preservation Tax Credit, which has done more than any other program to revitalize formerly dilapidated urban neighborhoods, creating jobs and putting abandoned buildings back onto the tax rolls.
Smith's record has been just as consistent when it comes to his sense of entitlement and his belief that the rules that apply to mere mortals do not apply to him. His political career began with this attempt to derail Russ Carnahan's candidacy through illegal means and his continued attempts to cover it up have been going on ever since.
Just as revealing was Smith's July 31, 2007, arrest at the Isle of Capri Casino in Boonville. Smith at the behest of Isle of Capri lobbyist Lynne Schlosser, used Rep. Joseph Aull's identification to gamble, something that Smith knew was illegal. As I wrote in the Sept. 25, 2007, Turner Report:
Smith, Rep. Joseph Aull, D-Marshall, Aull's wife Candee, Sen. Chuck Graham, D-Columbia, Sen. Wes Shoemyer, D-Clarence, Sen. Jolie Justus, D-Kansas City, and Rep. Judy Baker, D-Columbia, were having a night out on the town at the expense of a lobbyist representing a special interest with a stake in numerous bills that will come before the legislature during the 2008 session.
Shortly after Smith's arrest, I noted in the Aug. 6 Turner Report that Smith had been a big-time recipient of casino industry contributions, many carefully laundered through other committees:
An examination of Missouri Ethics Commission records shows Smith received $2,600 which can be directly traced to casinos during 2006, as well as $5,400 from casino lobbyists or their clients.
Another $4,800 appears to have come from Ameristar Casinos after being legally laundered through a Democratic party committee. On Aug. 12, 2006, the 94th House District Democratic Committee received a $5,000 contribution from Ameristar Casinos. Three days later, the committee gave $4,800 to Smith. Oddly, Smith's own committee disclosure form says the 94th Committee contribution came Aug. 11...the day before the committee received the Ameristar Casinos contribution.
Other casino or casino-related contributions for Smith include:
-30 days after general election 2006- Harrah's Operating $650, Isle of Capri Casinos $650
-Eight days before the election 2006- $500 contributions from Missouri Dental PAC, Missouri Pharmacy PAC, and Missouri Association of Nurse Anesthetists, all clients of Ameristar Casinos' lobbying firm Gamble & Schlemeier
-October 2006- John Bardgett and Associates, lobbying firm for Pinnacle Entertainment and numerous other clients, $650; Penn National Gaming $650
-30 days after primary- Two $650 contributions from Missouri Pharmacy PAC and $650 from MORESPAC, clients of Gamble and Schlemeier, $650 from Bardgett, $650 from Bardgett's lobbying firm
-94th House District, $4,800
Chris Liese, a former state representative from St. Louis, and now a lobbyist for Isle of Capri spent $910 wining and dining the legislators and Mrs. Aull on July 31, according to Missouri Ethics Commission documents. A total of $130 was spent on "meals, food, and beverage" for each person, the documents indicate.
Reports of Smith's behavior at the Isle of Capri lend even more credence to the earlier mentioned sense of entitlement. He refused to stop using his Blackberry,a violation of casino rules, he gambled on someone else's identification, which was illegal at the time, and when he was caught on it, it was the law that was bad, not Jeff Smith.
The charges against Smith, Aull, and Ms. Schlosser were dropped in April after the casino industry used its influence to change the law.
This time, there is no way for Smith to weasel out of his facing his responsibility, but please let's drop this nonsense about Smith's guilty plea being some kind of tragedy.
Jeff Smith was not some kind of Sir Galahad with tragic weaknesses; he is a crook, plain and simple.