|| You are
invited to complete and submit the comment card found at the
bottom of this page. Request rates and permission for publication
on the comment card found at the bottom of this page or by
This column ran in the Sacramento
on March 3, 1994. It was published in a slightly different format.
Doesn't Faze the Legislature's Arrogance"
There was something odd about the
events surrounding the recent resignation of Assemblyman Patrick
Nolan. I'm not talking about the fact that Nolan copped a plea
without a trial, that he seemed much more willing to face 33 months
away from his family rather than clear his good name, or that
the Glendale Republican became the victim of an investigation
that he may very well have started himself in 1985 when he suggested
to federal investigators that Assembly Speaker Willie Brown Jr.,
was engaging in illegal practices with lobbyists.
And as curious as the immediate
sentencing was by U.S. District Judge Edward J. Garcia, before
any type of traditional probation report was forthcoming, there
was one other odd aspect as yet another Capitol legislator fell
from grace. This oddity seems to have gone unnoticed -- or perhaps
it's become all too familiar and expected.
Not a single member of this increasingly
dishonored fraternity spoke to the fact that justice just might
have been served as a result of Nolan's resignation. Or, to hope
for the impossible, that a member of the legislature would actually
praise federal investigators or prosecutors for their efforts
to stem Capitol corruption. Is this surprising from a legislative
body that deems it totally inappropriate for any member to so
much as speak of corruption convictions on the hollowed floor
of the legislature?.
Comments about Nolan's resignation
ranged from the self-serving to the religiously absurd. Assemblyman
and key Nolan ally, Ross Johnson, was quoted as saying, "I will
go to my grave believing Pat Nolan to be completely innocent of
Speaker Brown commented, "It's always
sad when something happens to one of my members, whether it's
a death or any other horrible thing. This, obviously, was the
worst of horrors." Brown seems to have come closest to actually
asserting that justice was the result on Nolan's plea when Brown
stated, "I assume you plead guilty because you are guilty."
Finally, Nolan political contributor
John Gregg of Glendale provided the strangest comment, "Now I
have an even greater respect for the man. As a matter of fact,
that's what they had for Christ when they nailed him to the cross."
So, maybe I shouldn't be so surprised
that not one of Nolan's fellow legislators, Democrat or Republican,
expressed any feeling that justice had been served, that Nolan
was guilty or that there was the tiniest chance Nolan's constituency,
both in Glendale and statewide, were better off as a result of
When Speaker Brown, who had numerous
well documented skirmishes with Nolan, stated he was sad as the
result of Nolan's resignation and that this was "the worst of
horrors," what did he mean? What was the horror? That the legislature
has again been shamed? That the legislative body that Brown leads
was unable to detect yet another series of vote buying? It is
indeed odd that Speaker Brown, for all his talk about the need
for political reform, did not mention that the people of California
were better off as a result of Nolan's resignation.
If we are to believe Nolan, who
in a sworn statement to the court stated that he ran his assembly
office "in part as a racketeering enterprise," it is the public
who are in fact guilty. Nolan asserts that even though he swears
of taking $10,000 "to affect my legal actions," it is the public
who should be ashamed.
And to think that Nolan received
the minimum 33 month sentence under federal guidelines, compared
to the 8 years (96 months) one guilty count at a trial could have
cost him or the 6 1/2 years (78 months) recently imposed on convicted
lobbyist Clay Jackson. And this without any agreement of testifying
about those also charged with him, Senator Frank Hill and legislative
aide Terry Frost.
Nolan's lawyer, Ephraim Margolin,
said that Nolan would not volunteer any information about Hill
and Frost. Why? Margolin explained, "A man has to live with himself.
There are some things you do not do."
Apparently a man can take a $10,000
bribe; confess to running his office as racketeering enterprise;
turn-in the leader of the assembly to federal investigators and
live with himself. But, a man could never live with himself if
he had the courage to in some small part repay the people of California
by actually speaking the truth, however he knows it, about his
co-defendants. Is this what is meant by honor among thieves?
The lessons and rules are painfully
clear. Commit the crime, finally plead guilty, and impose no responsibility
on oneself to see that the truth becomes known. To further lower
the public's already plummeting view of politicians and politics
we read that Nolan is "completely innocent of the charges," this
was "the worst of horrors," or that Nolan deserves the sympathy
of a Christ hanging innocently from a cross.
Are we to believe that such a fine,
upstanding, moral, ethical political representative as Pat Nolan
would accept 33 months in prison because he felt the unpredictability
of a jury may have let him down when all the evidence at a trial
was finally considered?
The real tragedy and the real horror
is that not a single legislator spoke of the benefit of Nolan's
resignation, of the totally unethical and illegal behavior of
Nolan's accepting a $10,000 bribe (captured on video tape) or
running his office "in part as racketeering enterprize."
The public is simply being conned
if they believe a system is so out of control that the U.S. Attorney,
a federal district judge, the entire legislature, and Nolan himself
are allowing an innocent man to be punished because juries can
no longer be trusted to make rational decisions.
I'll gladly update you when my phone
begins to ring with legislators who tell me they believe that
Nolan got what he deserved and that his actions were unethical,
immoral and illegal. May I suggest to you, the public, that you
not hold your breath waiting for any such phone calls. You have
suffered enough already.