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An end to the Campbell love fest

Dear Editors, I hate to be the one to interrupt the present love fest between the local media and Ben Nighthorse Campbell now that he has announced his retirement. But I cannot join in. After reading reports about Sen. Campbell's Chief of Staff getting caught with her hand in the taxpayers' cookie jar, I have to marvel. Many years ago, I served as a congressional aide. Unlike at Campbell's office, if any of us had tried something like this, our boss would have had our guts for garters.Campbell's chief was receiving kickbacks from other staff members from bonuses she arranged. The reports and her own statements make it pretty clear she was receiving these illegal payments for personal expenses. It was also alleged that Campbell knew full well the details of this scheme. Whether the senator also participated should be the subject of a criminal investigation. Call me a cynic, but it sure looks to me like the prospect of an investigation, rather than the old saw "to spend more time with his family," precipitated his sudden decision to leave his powerful Senate seat.

The reports indicate Campbell knew about the alleged illegal activities. They were outlined in a resignation letter from another staffer submitted to the senator last year.

Yet Campbell took no action until the allegations were uncovered by the reporter for the Denver Post . And then the actions Campbell took were designed more to cover up this scandal than to reveal it. Instead of turning all the evidence over to the FBI, Campbell submitted it to the Senate Ethics Committee, a group he has had more than passing familiarity with in the past.

But here comes the joke on us taxpayers. The ethics committee has no jurisdiction over former members or staff. So with the senator's retirement, he has insulated himself from any adverse consequences.

If there is any question about the seriousness ofallegations involving congressional staff kickbacks, I suggest that you review the case of Congressman Traficant. He is presently cooling his heals in a federal penitentiary for eight years, convicted of exactly the same sort of kickback scheme.

Susan Kimbler, Durango





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