It seems the News-Leader is intent on "Perception Management" when it comes to supporting Roy Blunt in his candidacy for House Majority Leader. Editorial page editor Robert Leger became the official media apologist for Roy Blunt today, pointing out that . . .
"Rep. Roy Blunt's quest to become the House majority leader is a major local story for southwest Missouri. If he is successful, it will assure continued federal support for key Ozarks projects such as highway improvements, university research, water quality protection and Jordan Valley Park."
But isn't obtaining federal support for district projects what any good Congressman would do for his constituency? True, it would be a lot more fun for the local paper to cover a House Majority Leader than another bland party functionary like Gene Taylor, but is Leger really being completely open with his readers when he says . . .
"No evidence has surfaced that Blunt crossed legal lines like DeLay did. He doesn't make a habit of dining or traveling with lobbyists other than his wife. The amount Abramoff donated to Blunt's leadership PAC is relatively minor."
Technically, Blunt probably didn't cross legal lines, and he won't be indicted like DeLay, but his well-documented ethical lapses - his eleventh-hour addition to a Homeland Security bill to benefit big tobacco interests (not to mention his sleeping with a lobbyist working for said interests), his letters sent on behalf of Abramoff clients to protect their gambling interests in Mississippi, his shuffling of PAC monies to help his son's candidacy back home - does anybody really know how much tainted money ended up in ROYB's coffers?
But Leger shrugs off such questions. "For purists," he says, "any liaison with lobbyists is suspect. Perception becomes reality."
Perception has become reality for Roy Blunt. In reality, Blunt actually did do Jack Abramoff's bidding by writing letters to the Department of Interior urging them to limit tribal expansion that would compete with Abramoff's casino clients. In reality, Blunt did try to attach an after-hours rider that would benefit Philip-Morris, the company that employed his girlfriend. And, as far as we can tell, none of this directly benefited Blunt's constituency in the Ozarks.
Of course, Blunt is now calling for lobbying reform, but this seems a little disingenuous given the fact that he was the main GOP connection to K Street during the lobbyist feeding frenzy that has characterized this Republican-controlled Congress. In effect, Blunt is calling for lobbying reform to curb his own questionable behavior. I guess that's admirable.
Despite what the News-Leader would have its readers believe, Roy Blunt isn't the "aw shucks" former social studies teacher who was sent to Washington to inherit the GOP's 7th District seat. He has become nothing more than a very effective full-time fundraiser for the Republican Party - and what's worse, he has chosen to favor a new constituency while he was away. Blunt has represented lobbyists and PAC's more than his own people back here in Southwest Missouri - and that perception-turned-reality is precisely why his once promising bid to become Majority Leader is now in jeopardy.