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The Company You Keep

September 23, 2010 by  

The Company You Keep

Georgia’s 12th Congressional District comprises 220 or so gerrymandered miles of economically and demographically heterogeneous land which includes everything from onion farms to America’s fifth largest port. The person who serves this diverse constituency, noted by the Cook Partisan Voting Index as being D+1 (listing slightly to port), is currently a wealthy trial lawyer named John Barrow.

Barrow himself is a fairly inconsequential fellow. Of his three successful campaigns for the House, two were decided by margins narrower than his shoulders. Pro-abortion group NARAL has given him a 100 percent rating; but he voted against major liberal initiatives like Obamacare and Cap and Trade.

In an effort to maintain his grasp on the good life afforded House members, Barrow horse-trades like the guy in the green eyeshade in a John Wayne movie; swapping votes for Nancy Pelosi for the power to pacify his more conservative constituents during Obama’s periodic assaults on their lives. To put a fine point on it: Barrow is everyone’s pal, but nobody’s friend.

The urbane Barrow is certainly not someone you’d expect to find skulking around the urban alleys of New York City. Indeed, it’s hard to picture the bespectacled Barrow, who’s whiter than Dennis Kucinich singing Conway Twitty tunes in a Branson karaoke bar, leaping out of his limo to hang with the homeboys who call Harlem home. So imagine my surprise when the ethics imbroglio surrounding comically corrupt Charles Rangel of New York’s 15th Congressional District (PVI: D+43 — more liberal than David Paterson’s “girlfriends”) managed to ensnare the pasty-faced Congressman from South Georgia.

For his part, Rangel has — ahem — allegedly committed a list of offenses which stretch from the Apollo Theatre to Augusta National. He has remained near the top of the D.C. heap despite even President Barack Obama reacting to his ethics scandals by suggesting he should “end his career with dignity.” During four decades in Washington, Rangel has salted away quite a pile, and has subsequently spread the wealth to far-flung congressional corners — including Southeast Georgia.

You read that correctly. The putrescence of liberalism extends from 125th Street all the way to the Savannah River. With a nod to The Bard via Charles D. Warner — politics does indeed make strange bedfellows. According to a Tuesday report in the Savannah Morning News, Barrow has been on the receiving end of Rangelian largesse since 2004 and has no intention of ridding himself of the repellent stink of Rangel’s rewards. To date, Barrow has cashed checks from the Regent of Riker’s Island totaling $24,000. And according to Barrow spokesmodel Jane Brodsky, he’s keeping the cash:

Congressman Barrow is not going to make a symbolic gesture based on contributions he received in past election cycles that were spent a long time ago.”

Truth be told, there’s not much point in Barrow dumping Rangel’s tainted treasure. With another nod to The Bard: that spot ain’t comin’ out in the wash. By refusing to divest himself of Rangel’s 24 grand, the supposedly Blue Dog Barrow has cast his lot with the far left of the liberal establishment.

Obama might call this sort of thing a “teachable moment.” Barrow, who is facing opposition from Ray McKinney (who sports an endorsement from the increasingly powerful Tea Party), may be in for a wild ride to November. While Real Clear Politics data suggest Barrow’s seat is safe, there are no polls which indicate an approval rating at or above 50 percent.

In an off-year election in which Democrats not only won’t have the benefit of Obama’s coattails, but would rather skip and go naked than huddle under the President’s hide, Barrow likely needs every nickel. Here’s the rub: when word of Barrow’s canoodling with Rangel gets back to Peach State voters, how much political vigorish will Barrow owe on the loan?

Barrow has played both sides of the fence for long enough to hold on to his seat on the back bench of the House, but has made little headway in terms of noteworthiness, much less notoriety. While he has a sizeable financial edge over McKinney, association with a wire-pulling reprobate like Rangel may cost him a great deal more than a lousy double-dozen large. And it raises fair questions about the Democrats’ direction.

Barrow’s financial fraternization with Rangel is apt allegory for the larger issues surrounding the Democrat Party in 2010. What happened to Pelosi “draining the swamp?” Where is the end of the liberal culture of corruption? And if I hold Barrow up to a 40-watt bulb, can I see where his spine is supposed to be?

According to Brodsky:

"(Barrow) has neither received nor accepted any contributions after allegations of (Rangel’s) ethical impropriety arose."

Barrow the Blue Dog and Rangel the snake — different ends of the same donkey.

Ben Crystal

is a 1993 graduate of Davidson College and has burned the better part of the last two decades getting over the damage done by modern-day higher education. He now lives in Savannah, Ga., where he has hosted an award-winning radio talk show and been featured as a political analyst for television. Currently a principal at Saltymoss Productions—a media company specializing in concept television and campaign production, speechwriting and media strategy—Ben has written numerous articles on the subjects of municipal authoritarianism, the economic fallacy of sin taxes and analyses of congressional abuses of power.

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