Don’t Be Fooled

Photo by Alan Parkinson

When the news began about accusations against John Swallow his first response was to dismiss the allegations based on the tainted source from which they sprang and then duck his head and send out lots of emails about what “he” was doing for the state. When the volume and variety of allegations increased Mr. Swallow adopted a new standard answer which sounds reasonable on the surface but is likewise meant to distract from the issue arising from the multitude of allegations. His standard andwer is that he has done nothing illegal and therefore he will not resign. Holly Richardson does a great job of explaining the standard which governs the impeachment process and that standard is “high crimes and misdemeanors” not “committing illegal acts.” In doing so she illuminated the way that Mr. Swallow is using his standard answer to deflate the very appropriate calls for impeachment by playing on a general misunderstanding of what constitutes “high crimes and misdemeanors.” Let me start by making this very clear. We tend to think of high crimes being obviously criminal like murder but the fact is that obviously criminal acts such as that are felonies and felons are not even allowed to vote, let alone hold office. Lesser criminal acts are classified as misdemeanors so having ruled those out we can understand that “high crimes” are acts which may not even be actionable in the criminal system. As Holly points out, they are issues such as “breaches of ethical conduct, misuse of power, and neglect of duty.” By declaring that he is not a criminal – in other words not guilty of any felonies or misdemeanors (a claim which may not even be true) – Swallow is trying to make us forget about the obvious acts of breaching ethical conduct, misuse of power, and neglect of duty to which he has already admitted on various occasions. (Read the last few of Dan’s posts for a good review if you have not already been following this issue.) The real core issue is well stated by Dan:

Even if none of what has been reported is illegal, it is costing Swallow the public’s trust, and that is the standard that legislators must use as they evaluate Swallow’s “side of the story.”

Thankfully, Speaker Becky Lockhart seems to be working to make sure that our state legislators are well informed in case they finally recognize that it is time to begin the impeachment process. (I think that more and more of them are recognizing that fact even as they continue to hope that the issue will resolve itself without them initiating impeachment proceedings.)