Republicans have become so fixated on helping Ivanka Trump at all costs, they are overlooking a whole slew of egregious ethical and legal problems.
The latest case in point is Georgia gubernatorial candidate Brian Kemp’s abysmal performance as secretary of state. Kemp presided over a patently illegal and grossly corrupt voting machine purge (which Georgia has now conceded it was a crime), oversaw a wave of voter suppression attacks throughout the state and saddled his office with an inexplicable backlog of more than 300,000 voter records.
He also oversaw a “voter ID” law (which, in fact, he did not enforce), and refused to require annual voter registration cards for voters.
But Kemp’s greatest errors arguably stem from his use of government resources to help GOP candidate in the gubernatorial election.
Possibly the most appalling examples of Kemp’s abuse of power have to do with some of his office’s real estate holdings, which in some cases are in common interests with the individuals helping him win the race. Kemp is also drawing a salary and office space in his office in an off-limits office building, which he is using to collect rent from the owners of the building. Kemp is listed on public documents as “a limited liability company director and shareholder” with a so-called company called “B. Brian Kemp Jr. & Co.”
In one incident, Kemp was using resources of his office, in other words his government office, to try to help his political campaign. The behavior is so egregious, even Kemp’s fellow Republicans have started calling for his resignation.
Last week, Kemp admitted he got a $9,000 cash payment from a registered lobbyist and told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution he was unaware the bill was an honorarium.
And yet, Kemp is still free to be the governor and use the government to help his campaign. This kind of behavior undermines even the veneer of democratic values.
Even worse is that Kemp seems to see nothing wrong with this behavior. He’s blaming the media for blowing the situation out of proportion. In a interview with FOX5 Atlanta earlier this month, Kemp said he was in control of his actions.
“I’m responsible for the taxpayer dollars and what I spend them on. And I think any criticism I’ve received was reasonable criticism,” he said.
Perhaps he should realize that all of this scrutiny is entirely warranted. Kemp doesn’t just see the election as a personal win. It’s a gigantic political opportunity. And he is abdicating his responsibility to the public to try to take that advantage.
While many Georgia Republicans have voiced their distaste for the unethical way the secretary of state’s office has operated under Kemp’s watch, they have allowed Kemp to remain in charge of the office and the state’s elections process. Kemp’s main opponent in the Republican primary for governor, Stacey Abrams, has demanded Kemp’s resignation from his post.
Republicans across the country are set to vote this year, but the ones responsible for the problems in Georgia should expect to pay a massive price for this performance.
If Kemp can get away with this blatant abuse of power while also receiving assistance from his taxpayer-funded office, there’s no telling how many other bad actors in both parties will continue to get away with doing things not just ethically but also legally questionable.
At this point, there’s no excuse for taking the view that the voters should have to bear all the burdens of cleaning up the mess for a government worker. Conservatives who claim to uphold the principles of limited government and accountability should be vocalizing their outrage about the stunningly dangerous precedent Kemp is setting.
At a time when Republicans want to be champions of law and order, the sheer arrogance that Kemp shows is unfathomable. While he can continue to get away with doing his work as secretary of state with public resources, he has already shown that he will not be able to do it without using those same resources to help his campaign.
At some point, people will grow tired of this kind of behavior, and Republicans will suffer for it.
Stacey Leasca is an assistant professor of legal studies and political science at Florida A&M University and an assistant director of the Black Scholarship Fund. Her new book, “In Defense of the Underrepresented: Speaking Truth to Power for Your Rightful Place in the Society”, hits shelves July 17.