Paul Jacob

The Majority Leader wrote in his complaint to the ethics committee:

Senator Hanna's language — whether she was intentionally soliciting money for favorable legislative action, which would be a crime, or through some lapse of judgment has written a letter capable of misinterpretation — tends to bring the Senate into disrepute, damages the Senate's reputation and serves to destroy the faith the public has in legislative bodies.

Yes. Indeed.

Even more so after Steve Welchert, a top Democratic political consultant and lobbyist, offered something of a defense of Sen. Hanna. He asked rhetorically, "Did Deanna Hanna push the envelope a little too far?" And answered, "Maybe so. But it's an everyday occurrence at the legislature. I've seen it. I've heard it. I've witnessed it."

Oh, he's certainly got a point, it's just the ho-hum, everyday, run-of-the-mill racketeering one would find in any capitol . . .

Hanna, retired from the Denver Public Schools after nearly four decades as a school nurse, is now in her second four-year senate term and is a committee chairman. She appears confident, telling a reporter, "I know the process. I'm prepared to go through it and in the end I think I will be vindicated."

The Senate Ethics probe could end up reprimanding, censuring or even expelling Hanna from the Senate. Or the panel could dismiss the complaint, if they agree with Sen. Hanna that she did nothing wrong.

But if she is guilty of writing the letter she doesn't deny she wrote, shouldn't she — like Capone — face jail? What she did is a crime. A serious one that undermines our free society — especially if it is an "everyday occurrence."

It is also a great reason to put more limits on governments: without government goons bullying in on every aspect of modern life, politicians' extortion attempts would become mere empty threats.

Paul Jacob

Paul Jacob is President of Citizens in Charge Foundation and Citizens in Charge. His daily Common Sense commentary appears on the Web and via e-mail.