Ever fail to pay a traffic or parking ticket on time?
Ever put off paying your taxes?
If so, you likely learned an expensive lesson in the importance of punctually satisfying your debts to society.
But as exposed in a Thursday front-page story by David Slade and Brenda Rindge:
“Politicians and some lobbyists owe the State Ethics Commission nearly $3.2 million in unpaid fines, with Charleston- area politicians accounting for more than $500,000 of the debt.”
OK, so most of the ethics fines “came from failures to file campaign finance reports on time.”
That’s not exactly up there with the “high crimes and misdemeanors” cited in Article Two of the U.S. Constitution.
Then again, neither is not paying a parking ticket on time.
Still, when candidates complete campaign finance reports on schedule, vigilant voters can get a better idea of who’s backing them — and why.
Anyway, isn’t it at least sort of unethical to not pay all of your fines when due?
However, rather than further embarrassing those ethics-fines scofflaws by repeating their names today, this column will — for now — mercifully extend their deadline to pay up before being identified in this space.
Meanwhile, though, Ethicsfinegate has joined these other galling examples of powerful people ignoring the rules even as the rest of us have to follow them:
Hillaryemailsgate: The Democratic presidential front-runner is still dodging questions about her seemingly unethical and perhaps illegal use of a personal server for official emails while serving as secretary of state. As CNN put it this week, the “most serious” concerns in this latest Clinton scandal are manifested in findings by two inspectors general that her private server “contained classified information and a related referral to the FBI concerning a ‘potential compromise of classified information.’”
At least nobody’s accused Bernie Sanders — or Joe Biden — of email malfeasance.
Debategate: The Republican National Committee, in league with Fox News, has foolishly limited next Thursday’s 9 p.m. GOP presidential debate in Cleveland to the top 10 in much-too-early polls.
Yes, thanks to a limited concession to inclusion announced this week, the bottom seven out of the now 17 declared GOP candidates will get to have their own preliminary (5 p.m.) Thursday debate in Cleveland.
However, by basing eligibility for the Thursday night main event on poll standing, the RNC has boosted the stock of celebrity status while prematurely precluding worthy candidates from prime time.
That’s not technically unethical. But it is unwise for a party that has lost the popular vote in five of the last six presidential elections and is now forcing White House aspirants to dive into the yucky publicity-seeking muck with billionaire braggart Donald Trump.
The fair and balanced solution would be to break the field into two, three or even four separate prime-time debates, preferably with Trump in the same group with Lindsey Graham — the man whose cellphone number “The Donald” so recklessly revealed.
But at least a 7 p.m. Monday forum, co-sponsored by The Post and Courier, in Manchester, N.H., is open to the entire GOP field and will air on C-Span. Fourteen candidates — but not Trump — have committed to participate in that event.
Deflategate: The New England Patriots, already tainted by the 2007 Spygate scandal, again are credibly accused of breaking the rules — this time by allegedly using footballs inflated below NFL regulations.
Patriots quarterback Tom “Terrific” Brady is again maintaining his innocence, despite his suspicious decision to destroy a cellphone with potentially pertinent evidence.
Team owner Robert Kraft is now defiant, too, apologizing to Patriot fans Tuesday for agreeing in May that the team would lose two draft choices, including a first-rounder next year, as punishment for tampering with the footballs.
The Patriots were also fined $1 million. That’s the biggest fine in league history, though mere chump change for mega-rich business magnate Kraft.
So if nobody working for the Patriots did anything wrong, as Brady and Kraft now insist, why did the team suspend two employees for their supposed involvement in the scheme?
The Patriots even ludicrously claimed in May that one of those flunkies called himself “The Deflator” in text messages — not because he let the air out of footballs but because he was trying to lose weight.
At least millions of fans of other teams rightly cheered Thursday for this plane-pulled banner, paid for by New York Jets backers, that flew over the Patriots’ opening preseason practice: “Cheaters Look Up!”
At least, thanks to elevated journalistic ethics, we in the media will keep looking out for violations of the public trust.
For instance, sports columnist Dan Shaughnessy bravely wrote in Wednesday’s Boston Globe:
“It’s time for local loyalists to parachute down from Planet Patriot and get in touch with reality. Stop twisting yourselves into knots to justify the petty crimes and cover-ups of the Patriots and their quarterback.”
And at least Kraft, unlike too many folks around here, paid his fine on time.
Frank Wooten is assistant editor of The Post and Courier. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.