Democrats should probably avoid boasting they have the moral high ground

You may have heard about that Democratic county official in Nevada whom police have arrested on suspicion of murdering a reporter. But you probably didn’t hear about the Democratic campaign consultant in New Jersey who pled guilty to conspiracy and murder-for-hire earlier this year. And only those who closely follow politics are likely to have heard about the Democratic mega-donor from California who lured men into his apartment and injected them with methamphetamine in exchange for sex, leading to two fatal overdoses. 

I think we’re starting to see why some in that party were so enthusiastic about the notion of abolishing the police.

Last month, I asked whether people were getting crazier. I had debated including an observation from another conservative blogger from years ago, contending that the world of politics tended to attract more than its share of crazy people, that the world of journalism tended to attract more than its share of crazy people, and that the world of the Internet tended to attract more than its share of crazy people. Therefore, we political-news bloggers tended to interact with way more crazy people on a regular basis than the average person did.

The contention that the world of politics tends to attract more than its share of crazy people seems self-evident. Politics offers fame, power, glamour, and, often, considerable amounts of money (or, at least, the ability to control considerable amounts of money. You will run into nutty candidates, nutty campaign managers and staffers, nutty volunteers, nutty donors, and nutty hangers-on. Who knows, maybe even some political correspondents can be nutty from time to time.

And apparently, you occasionally run into murderers.

Robert Telles, the Clark County, Nev., public administrator, was arrested by Las Vegas police on suspicion of murdering Las Vegas Review-Journal reporter Jeff German, whose investigation of the politician contributed to his primary election loss in June.

“The arrest of Robert Telles is at once an enormous relief and an outrage for the Review-Journal newsroom,” Executive Editor Glenn Cook said. “We are relieved Telles is in custody and outraged that a colleague appears to have been killed for reporting on an elected official. Journalists can’t do the important work our communities require if they are afraid a presentation of facts could lead to violent retribution. We thank Las Vegas police for their urgency and hard work and for immediately recognizing the terrible significance of Jeff’s killing. Now, hopefully, the Review-Journal, the German family and Jeff’s many friends can begin the process of mourning and honoring a great man and a brave reporter.”

The breakthrough in the case came after police released an image of a vehicle tied to the homicide suspect: a red or maroon GMC Yukon Denali.

Police released the image during a news conference Tuesday afternoon. Later that evening, Review-Journal reporters observed Telles in the driveway of his home, standing next to a vehicle matching that description.

Already, some conservatives on social media are playing “name that party,” noting the odd and consistent pattern where if an obscure local Republican official is caught in an embarrassing scandal, the headline and first paragraph will often mention the party affiliation. But if an obscure local Democratic official is caught in an embarrassing scandal, the headline and first paragraph will only mention the person’s title and location; the party affiliation will be mentioned deep in the story — if it is mentioned at all. Like just about every official in Clark County, Telles is a Democrat. We might cut local media some slack on this; they may well believe their audiences already know that any official from this area is all but certain to be a Democrat.

We know why so many media institutions play “name that party”: When a little-known Republican official is caught in a scandal, many left-leaning reporters and editors believe that the event reflects the corruption, greed, selfishness, amorality, and wickedness that lurks in the dark hearts of members of the GOP. When a little-known Democratic official is caught in a scandal, those same reporters generally believe it’s just an unfortunate thing that happened, with no broader implications or lessons.

But corruption knows no partisan boundary. The human mind is capable of remarkable mental gymnastics in the name of self-justification, and exceptionally high self-regard is almost a prerequisite for running for office. Because elected officials often see themselves as shining, uniquely virtuous forces for good, they can justify all kinds of immoral and illegal acts, concluding that the ends justify the means.

What you may not have heard is that across the country, New Jersey Democratic campaign consultant Sean Caddle was indicted and pled guilty on charges of conspiracy and murder-for-hire. The guilty plea occurred back in January, yet somehow the strange and sordid tale never became national news.

Caddle, who worked as a consultant to former New Jersey state Sen. Raymond Lesniak, plead guilty in a grisly plot to kill a long-time associate, whose death had stymied investigators for years. The U.S. Attorney’s Office did not name the victim, but those familiar with the case identified him as Michael Galdieri, 52, who was found dead when firefighters responded to a two-alarm blaze in his apartment on May 22, 2014, and discovered his body.

Galdieri lived alone in the second-floor apartment. Authorities at the time disclosed that his body had multiple stab wounds, and believed the fire was set to cover up the murder.

Caddle had worked on Lesniak’s last Senate re-election campaign and for other candidates. A few months before the 2014 murder, he had formed a super PAC that The Star-Ledger reported had ties to New Jersey Democrats.

“He was an all-star in terms of being a political operative,” Lesniak said of Caddle.

I never want to hear anyone argue that local politics is boring again. The “local government” beat and the crime beat overlap all too often.

There’s an old maxim in journalism that if you see something happening three times, you can justify writing a piece that it’s turning into a trend. I wonder if California Democratic Party super-donor Ed Buck would qualify. Buck was found guilty on charges that he lured men into his apartment and injected them with methamphetamines in exchange for sex. He was convicted on all nine felony counts in a federal court and sentenced to 30 years in prison.

Buck was a wealthy former fashion model and LGBT activist, known in Los Angeles for his many political campaign contributions. In 2019, The Washington Post reported Buck “donated thousands to Democrats including Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and Rep. Ted Lieu (Calif.). Lieu said earlier this year he would donate more than $18,000 in contributions he received from Buck to LGBTQ and African American civil rights organizations.”

Do the cases of Telles, Caddle, and Buck reflect that America is awash in murders committed by Democratic officials, campaign staff, and donors? No, although they do illustrate Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s point that “The line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either — but right through every human heart.”

Still, if you’re a Democratic candidate this fall, you should probably avoid boasting that your party has convictions, and the GOP doesn’t. And for that matter, no matter how confident the DNC, DCCC, and DSCC are, no one in those organizations should boast that this year’s lineup of Democratic candidates is the greatest collection of talent since the 1927 New York Yankees.

You know, “Murderers’ Row.”

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