Politics: Staff members for a champion of the right to privacy and a leading critic of identity theft fraudulently obtained the credit report of a rising black political star. Your turn for tough questions, Sen. Schumer.
While the media focus on House Majority Leader Tom DeLay's alleged skirting of campaign laws to get Republicans elected, former Education Secretary Bill Bennett's alleged racially insensitive hypothetical regarding blacks, crime and abortion, and Sen. Bill Frist's recent sale of stock, a real crime against a black politician has been committed in virtual silence.
Sen. Charles Schumer, Democrat of New York, is chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC), and it's his job to get Democrats elected in hopes of wresting Senate control from the GOP. Michael Steele is lieutenant governor of Maryland, and the DSCC, and along with most everyone else, expects Steele to run for the open seat of retiring Sen. Paul Sarbanes.
Steele, an African American, is a rising star in a Republican party regularly accused of racial insensitivity if not outright racism, a party that thought so highly of him and his political future that it chose him to be the deputy permanent chairman of the 2004 Republican Convention.
Steele, a Catholic who once trained for the priesthood, was inspired to join the Republican Party by Ronald Reagan's failed 1976 presidential bid. He demonstrated in his appearance at the 2004 convention that he has charisma, warmth and a keen grasp of public policy. He has already won statewide in Maryland.
Apparently nothing frightens the DSCC more than an articulate and charismatic black American who also happens to be a Reagan conservative. How else to explain the behavior of two of Schumer's campaign committee members — research director Katie Barge and junior staffer Lauren Weiner — who dug for dirt using Steele's Social Security number, reportedly culled from court records, to fraudulently and illegally obtain his credit report?
Columnist Michelle Malkin has reported that as of Sept. 30, according to Steele staffers, Schumer, who is a longtime crusader against identity theft and denies any knowledge of the scheme, had offered no apology for the invasion of Steele's privacy by people in his employ or given any hint as to what they were after or why they did it.
These were no naive, overzealous interns. Barge is a longtime Democratic operative who led the research unit for a liberal media watchdog group run by journalist David Brock. She led the opposition research team for failed Democratic vice presidential candidate John Edwards. She knew the ropes and the rules.
So what motivated her and Weiner to knowingly and willingly break the law and put their freedom and future at risk? Under the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act, knowingly and willfully obtaining a credit report under false pretenses is a felony punishable with a fine and a maximum two years in prison.
Reportedly, the two women confessed to the act in July, were suspended with pay until Aug. 31 and finally resigned in mid-September. One would think a potential felony by staffers for a top Democrat — a case being investigated by the U.S. attorney's office in D.C. as well as the FBI — would at least get a paragraph of coverage somewhere between the grocery coupons and the obituaries.
Can you imagine the media firestorm if staffers for, say, Frist, had used Barack Obama's Social Security number to fraudulently obtain his credit report looking for stuff to derail his Senate campaign? Frist would have been before a media firing squad faster than you can say Bill Bennett.