One well-known conservative blogger, who seems quick to defend those he supports and those who support him, basically said capturing the conversation is “nothing” because the guys were talking loud and were sitting at the center table. The blogger further said that Cummings is a close supporter of Jon Bel Edwards and business associate of the Democrat and that the Sheriff had his own private investigator at the table. In addition, Mr. Blogger made a big deal out of the fact that the investigator was not a staffer of the Vitter campaign. Not to miss a beat, he told us or so it seems, that the recent sex scandal content is being supported by a trial lawyer backer of Edwards and a Dardenne supporter. On top of this, the blog teases us by suggesting that Normand has an “anger management” problem, his police officers doing the chasing of the investigator are piggy--overweight and old and that Norman freaked out the investigator who then took the occasion to hit a new venue, jump fences and hide from the “hoggish” heat.
The blogger noted that the Vitter campaign followed up this controversy with the following media response, “This person works for a firm that we hired to do research, all within the bounds of the law. This includes John Bel Edwards’ business associate and major donor, and his relationship with the John Bel Edwards campaign. It has nothing to do with Newell Normand.”
Oh, I forgot, the blogger also let us know that the recording might be legal because according to case law, we all have a right to record our public officials including cops. As one would expect, the ardent Vitter backers paraded this blog all over the Internet, trying to vindicate their candidate and they often blasted anybody who seemed to have a contrary view.
Well, I will try to comment without forgetting my “five-easy steps to managing anger”. I told a top Vitter official over a month ago after the last escapade by VitterPAC, that I discovered recording the conversations of innocent people, meaning private citizens, talking to Jon Bel Edwards, that activity is not only repugnant, but, I believe illegal. Furthermore, in my article following that event, I mentioned that this type of activity could be considered a federal offense--given the communications over the airwaves (Internet). By the way, under Louisiana law, it is not just the recording of a conversation but the procuring of the recording and the transmission of that recording that is verboten. Whether it is, or not unlawful in this particular case, that will be up to the law authorities, whether state or federal who those reviewing the facts.
So, even if there is absolutely zero wrong legally, (again, which I believe there is), the issue, to me, is--whether it is right. Is it the type of practice we want our government officials, elected officials and people running for office to do. Yes, I know this is an election season, and supposedly, according to some Vitter supporters, the same is being done every day, by every campaign, and so, why the outrage?
Well, maybe the outrage is, doing competitive research is one thing but snooping into our personal conversations, and “casing out our homes”, is something else, altogether.
Just maybe some of us are outraged because we have no evidence that any of this type of clandestine practice of videoing private citizens chatting with public officials is being done anywhere else, by anyone. While the blogger blesses this practice that is causing this uproar, interestingly, the Vitter campaign has a different take. They’re not targeting the sheriff or the State Senator who are public officials, but the other guy who is a business associate, major campaign and financial supporter of Vitter’s opponent
So, let us consider the implication of the blogger’s acceptance and the admitted actions of the Vitter campaign:
I suppose we should be comfortable with a politician, particularly a gubernatorial candidate, who would think it is hunky dory to record private citizens having conversations with public officials or with others? Should Vitter get elected, is he going to record the conversation or pay a sleuth to get the goods on his political opponents to certain legislation?
Normand and gang were having coffee, they were not in their respective offices or even on the job, unless, being a public official means, you are always on 24/7. Even if that were the case, and recording private conversations of “cop-pigs” would be kosher (sorry, I had to do it), surely, capturing the words of private citizens would not be.
Ah, but some of the blogger most avid supporters, who also seem to be some of Vitter’s ardent admirers are fine with it all, or so they say on Facebook, that it’s all A-OK, after all, it is a political campaign.
So, let me ask these questions to those approving such a practice: Is it ok to record the video and audio of all contributors to any campaign? If not, just how much would they have to contribute to a campaign that makes them recordable? Are all business associates of an opposing candidate fair game or just those who are having coffee with public officials? Wouldn’t giving the “Seal of Approval” to these intrusions, freeze people from wanting to participate in the political process or in the civic square?
Here are some scenarios: Politicians says “Dick, go record Mr. Johnny since he is putting up signs for candidate X”. “Capture Gloria while she eats lunch because she gave five thousand dollars to Candidate Y”. “Absolutely record the conversations of Joe because he gave a whopping $100,000 to our opponents’ Super PAC”. How about, “George, get the goods on Lawrence as he brings his three-year-old child to nursery school”.
And, since when is it appropriate to record anybody’s private conversation, simply because they are loud? At what decibel is loud anyway? If these guys talk so loud, then surely the private eye would not need to sit at the adjacent table, he could sit across the room and get the scoops, right?
Are Vitter, blogger and followers saying that capturing conversations of private citizens conversing with public officials totally acceptable since it is political competitive research? If so, imagine if our local restaurant, coffee shop or political hangouts started to put “bugs” on the walls or even under their tables to grab the political talk? How long do you think that any of those establishments would be open if it got out that patrons had to be concerned about eating their words as they drank their soup?
Taking all of this to the logical extension—if recording major donors, business partners engaging in casual or even political conversations is acceptable, then, I supposed I should not have had any problem, gathering the gossip from everyone attending the Vitter victory party? Or, can I only seize the statements of those who were on the podium with the governor hopeful?
To think that a campaign, a blog or their supporters engage or condone this behavior, is not just Nixonian, it is Vitterian. This is KGB on amphetamines.
Worse, the Vitter campaign has spent $130,000 so far in fees to this INVESTIGATIVE TEAM. And, let us not forget, it’s Super PAC has been spending $8000 per month to not just track the candidates’ every moves at events, but even when they walk off to their cars talking to strangers after a meeting or after a church service.
All of this is not just creepy, it is downright frightening that anyone would approve of such behaviors. It is especially curious that those who rightly blast the IRS for obtaining information on political groups. It is doubly wonderment for those who are annoyed with the NSA sucking up unidentifiable mega data so they can help prevent the next 9/11.
I might add, that according to the Sheriff Normand, the private investigator’s vehicle also had a Lexis-Nexis tab on another blogger who has been writing investigative articles about Vitter’s alleged prostitution practice from the past. Sounds to me like they are not going to defend themselves on the facts, but attack the messenger.
Actually, as I write this column, I’m looking out the window to see who might be prying around? It’s bad enough that Obama subpoenaed phone records of certain media, but should we now be concerned that our future governor, well-known for his vindictiveness, will beef up his “enemy list” armed with information, courtesy of the State Police, or some paid investigative arm?
Just, how far will it go? Should we scan our hard drives for Vitter Trojan horses sucking up our keystrokes?
I will tell you where I think it should end. Given what we now know, we should all want to know more about just what is going on. I, for one, want to know if any hired-Dick has been spying on me. I imagine you might want to know if they $130,000 includes a dossier on you, simply because you wrote a check, especially if it was a big check to one of his opponents? Or, the horrible of horribles, suppose you said something nasty on social media or you’ve done business with John Bel Edwards, Jay Dardenne or Scott Angelle?
Who else is Team Vitter, including the Super PAC recording since we know that recording audio of people having private conversations is now politically chic?
For somebody who tried quashing his testimony in the DC Madam Case and taking the 5th Amendment to keep his secrets, well, he surely seems somewhat cavalier to our privacies, doesn’t he?
So, maybe we will find out. Maybe the Sheriff, District attorney or even US Attorney will gather more information that will become available in a future public hearing or trial. Maybe the attorney-campaign contributor-business associate to Edwards will file his own suit for invasion of privacy and make his discovery more available. Maybe we all have a right to know if we have been recorded or if we are a product of a Lexis Nexis search and surveillance.
Now that I know who is doing the snooping, I am going to ask them to kindly turn over any and all information it might have about me.
Not that I think I am as important as Mr. Cummings.
But, I do want to know their “going’s on” as to what they know, when and how did they know it? And, how did they get it?