David Borden, Executive Director, [email protected], 5/31/02
One of the more insidious effects of the drug war is the corrupting effect it has on some who perceive themselves as law abiding. Drug warrior political officials are not an exception to this. An exposé written by Dan Forbes and released yesterday by the Institute for Policy Studies' Drug Policy Project reveals an intricate, probably illegal, conspiracy by elected officials, current and former appointed officials and anti-drug nonprofits to intervene in an Ohio election at taxpayer expense.
According to the report, Gov. Bob Taft, First Lady Hope Taft, Taft's chief of staff, two of his cabinet members and numerous senior and support staff on the public clock, carried out a behind-the-scenes scheme to defeat an upcoming "treatment not jail" ballot initiative sponsored by the Ohio Campaign for New Drug Policies. Aiding Ohio's conspirators were a variety of federal and state officials, a now-confirmed nominee for deputy US drug czar, a senior US Senate staffer, a senior DEA agent and the drug czars of Florida and Michigan, and government-connected nonprofits such as the Partnership for a Drug Free America and the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America.
It's not the first time that leading elected officials have skated on the edge of the law or stepped over it in service to misguided drug war zealotry. In 1997, Washington State's Lt. Governor, Brad Owen, used state resources to campaign against drug reformers' unsuccessful Initiative 685, ultimately paying $7,000 to settle a finding of misconduct by the state's Ethics Board. Owen expressed no penitence, however, declaring he would do it again if that's what it took to protect Washington's children from drugs.
How arrogant this governor and lieutenant governor, to think that they are above the law! These hard-liners, who live to strip nonviolent drug offenders of their freedom, think nothing of betraying the public's trust to violate the sanctity of the electoral process. But the arrogance is rooted in drug war fanaticism, the belief that the unacceptable somehow becomes acceptable, if it serves the drug war's extreme agenda.
In a different way, Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy skated on the edge of propriety because of drug views. During arguments over a challenge to a high school drug testing policy, Kennedy appeared to personally attack plaintiff Lindsay Earls, posing a hypothetical with one school that had drug testing and one that did not, which he derided as "the druggie school." Kennedy told the plaintiff's lawyer, Graham Boyd of the ACLU, that any parent would opt to send their children to the first school, except "perhaps not your client." Outside the Supreme Court after the hearing, the visibly upset Earls told reporters: "I don't use drugs. I shouldn't have to prove that."
It's one thing for the Justices to give lawyers a hard time -- that's not so good either, but at least they're trained for it. It's another to insult a plaintiff -- a student, no less -- and her parents, because they, like many Americans, don't think high schools should be drug testing large numbers of students, if any. It undermines the respect and decorum of the Court, and suggests inappropriate bias, as Suffolk law professor Eric Blumenson pointed out when calling for his recusal in an editorial published in Salon.com. Yet none of this seemed important to Kennedy in that moment, when a mere student dared to challenge his own willingness to disregard privacy and Constitutional protections -- if, once again, it is in the name of fighting drugs.
Many officials and public servants strive to uphold the letter and the spirit of the law, in drug policy and otherwise. But many are skating on the edge, and their ranks span all the branches of government, from executive to legislative to judicial, in the capital and the states, from the cop on the beat to the governors' mansions to the Supreme Court itself. The drug war is poison to standards of ethics and propriety in government. Truth and reason are the antidote to drug war extremism and corruption.
Read the Forbes/IPS report online at http://www.ips-dc.org/projects/drugpolicy/ohio.htm.