What price a Senator's (Stabenow's in particular) integrity?

I’m a generous guy. Alas, I’m also chronically cynical. So it takes a concerted effort for me, at times, to give people the benefit of the doubt.

Maybe it started in college, working at Fulton Heights Foods where it turned out that everyone who instinct said was going to write a bad check or try to sneak out with steaks tucked under their shirts turned out to be every bit the crook you figured.

Maybe it was all of those group-projects in school… burned too many times after convincing myself the under-achievers the teacher always seemed to assign my squad would actually show up the next day with their share of the work completed.

Heck, it was probably that fourth grade class Christmas party when my “Secret Santa,” Carla Parker, wrapped and gave me used ChapStick (I wish I was making that up) while my friends were opening GI Joes and Transformers. Freaking Carla Parker.

Lets be honest, though… what do raw steak thieves, lazy students and gift-wrapped garbage have on your average politician. Did I mention that I’m a generous guy?

I am, though. Or I try to be. So when Michigan and Congressional Democrats prattle on and on about the need for lobbyist reform, for a new era of ethics and for transparency I want to take them at their word. I trust the Democratic Party about as far as I can log-toss Mark Brewer but individually, I do the best I can.

Still, there comes a time when even the most gracious observer is left scratching his head. How can someone like Michigan’s Senator Debbie Stabenow, for instance, say the things she says and vote the way she votes (remember, this is a woman who voted to create a ”Senate Office of Public Integrity”) and then sit by while the husband who shares her home, and bank account, presumably, rakes in a half-year’s income by working illegally as a lobbyist for a scandal-prone Detroit area developer? And lobbying in favor of a project she made a point of opposing during her last bid for office?

Something just doesn’t sit right. Red flags pop out of every corner of this thing, as much as the bulk of the mainstream media would like to ignore them. Bells and whistles, too. It is obvious that the Senator understood what her husband was doing these past six months, so I’ll ask the obvious question… what would motivate a twice-elected member of the United States Senate to cast aside all of her best rhetoric and surrender her moral high ground?

If it weren’t for a lifetime spent watching Law and Order re-runs I wouldn’t know where to start but the embarrassingly large number of hours spent watching the procedural has taught me one thing about detective work… follow the money.

A quick review of public records tells us that Tom Athen’s boss, developer Jim Papas knows two things; one, how to rake in millions of dollars from Detroit pension funds despite chronic failure and two, how to scribble checks to Democrats. And not tiny ones, either.

According to the Bureau of Elections and the FEC, Papas has given the Democratic Party and her candidates over $240,000 in just over four-years time.

Andy Dillon brought home $2,500 in Papas money. John Kerry’s Victory Fund saw an influx of $25,000. Even freshman Congressman Mark Schauer got in on the act, bringing in $2,300. The big winners, though, are the sort of accounts that can make a difference to a woman like Senator Stabenow.

Papas wrote checks of $10,000 to the Michigan Democratic Party, $25,000 to the Democratic National Committee, another $25K to the Democratic Congressional Committee and a fat $30 Gs to the Senate Democratic Fund.

That’s not chump change.

The number that could best explain Senator Stabenow’s decision to turn a blind eye to the blatant illegality, ethics and lobbyist violations happening right under her nose remains a mystery, though. Just how much Papas money found its way into her bank account while her husband broke the law to support a toxic waste well Stabenow once claimed she opposed?

I’d like to believe the best about people, even Democratic Senators… but the cynic in me says that every Senator has her price. This is one time I hate to be proven right.

Cross-posted on Right Michigan at www.RightMichigan.com.