Josh Goodman is a former staff writer for GOVERNING..E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch has the fascinating story of a corruption scandal besetting Democrats in Missouri:
ST. LOUIS -- As in other political scandals, it was not the original offense -- it was the cover-up. Missouri Sen. Jeff Smith, Rep. Steve Brown and Smith's former campaign
treasurer, Nick Adams, each pleaded guilty to federal felony conspiracy
charges Tuesday and admitted their involvement in a years-long scheme
to cover up campaign violations from 2004.
The original violation -- hiding their involvement in a campaign flier -- may have only earned only a fine, lawyers said.
But in their bid to avoid responsibility for the 25,000 negative fliers mailed to residents of Missouri's 3rd Congressional District, Smith and Adams lied to FBI agents and the Federal Election Commission. On tape recordings obtained by federal authorities, they discussed blaming it all on a dead former colleague. And they bought throwaway cell phones to avoid surveillance, at one point likening themselves to characters on the HBO crime drama "The Wire."
Smith and Brown both have resigned their seats. They'll be replaced in special elections in November.
Smith has a measure of fame from his starring role in a documentary about his Democratic primary campaign for Congress in 2004, "Can Mr. Smith Get to Washington Anymore?" I haven't seen the movie, but my understanding is that the film portrays Smith as a sympathetic underdog. As it turns out, Smith is going to jail because of his cover up of underhanded tactics in that campaign.
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