Paying Official Shush Money? There Ought to Be a Law!

Barb Wire

Apparently, millions of taxpayer dollars have been expended to induce people not to pursue lawsuits that would focus attention on allegations of misconduct by members of Congress. Some commentators are outraged that public money should be expended in this way. Others are content to use the stories as weapons with which to tarnish the character of public figures they dislike or tar the media for supposedly reporting “fake news.”

But who seriously considers how all this affects the public good? The constitutional requirement for due process of law (clear in the U.S. Constitution’s Bill of Rights, but present as well in the constitutions of all the States) is usually discussed as if it has no purpose but to prevent harm to individuals. But this neglects the fact that, in our form of constitutional self-government, individuals comprise the body politic. They are citizens qualified to vote in our elections, who thereby volunteer to carry out an office, or duty, involving the exercise of sovereign power.

That exercise entails key decisions that directly or indirectly determine the actual composition of the different branches of government at every level. Thus, members of the body politic directly or indirectly decide who is chosen to serve those branches in an official capacity; whether such officials should be charged with misbehavior and removed from office; and even what changes shall be made in the language of our constitutions of government, including the U.S. Constitution.

Obviously, where government officials may, without just cause, charge and punish individual citizens for abuses of power, they are well positioned to impair or altogether corrupt what are supposed to be sovereign decisions of the body politic. Like the designing Grand viziers or first ministers of kings, despots and tyrants, such officials may take de facto control of government. Governments exercising just powers derived from the consent of the governed, become instead the tools of individuals successfully abusing their official power, to influence, intimidate and ultimately control the people, while maintaining the specious appearance of doing so with their consent. From being representatives of the body politic, such abusive government officials become the its masters.

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In light of this scenario for usurpation, the constitutional requirement for due process of law aims to complicate the execution of such strategic assaults against the sovereign body of the people. Along with measures intended to divide the fence of the judicial aspect of executive power, and assure the legislature’s due dependence on the consent of the people, due process requirements provide permanent grounds on which to defend the sovereign body of the citizens against individual attacks, much as secure borders are supposed to safeguard its territory.

Given this purpose for demanding respect for due process of law, what sense does it make to allow private individuals to reach self-serving agreements that effectively impair it? This is especially questionable where possible criminal activities are concerned, for they may involve official high crimes and misdemeanors that damage society itself. It is patently self-defeating for the public to finance agreements that amount to bribing potential witnesses for their cooperation in thwarting investigation and prosecution of such misbehavior.

What makes that irrationality even more obvious is the fact that such private agreements may allow individual officials to protect their prospects of remaining in office, by concealing betrayals of their trust from the body politic, whose sovereign duty includes deciding whether those officials are fit to do so. Strictly speaking, due process of law thus serves to protect what may be the most vital public property (res publica) of the body politic, which is its exercise of sovereign power.

Shouldn’t agreements facilitating attacks against this vital public property be treated as suspected acts of lèse-majesté (attacks on the sovereign’s body) until proper investigation determines whether the facts being concealed warrant such a charge? Shouldn’t they be regarded, in any case, as agreements to give and receive a bribe, punishable as such under law, regardless of what is being concealed? When it comes to performing the sovereign duty of election constitutionally assigned to them, isn’t it up to the voting citizens to judge the import of the matters officials seek to conceal? Isn’t a deal that uses bribery to deprive them of the opportunity to do so an attack on the society itself, whose good they are, as voters, supposed to serve?

Any use of public power that damages the public good is a default of sovereign responsibility. I know that modern social science purposely encourages the body politic to embrace the specious view that encourages people to think of voting as a strictly self-serving activity. But this view, intentionally or not, aids the agenda the elitists who seek to overthrow the historic assertion of self-government the people of the United States was born to vindicate, and which their constitutional governments were framed to implement.

Citizenship involves an obligation to do right by the good of the people as a whole. Allowing government officials to deprive them of information required to satisfy this obligation draws the people down a path that will inevitably led them to surrender the exercise of sovereignty vital to their self-government. This threat to their common good calls for a common sense remedy: The legislative representatives of the people should immediately devise and pass laws that explicitly forbid public officials, including candidates for public office, from giving or receiving any form of bribe or compensation that facilitates the concealment of facts or testimony that bear on the body politic’s judgment about an officials fitness to serve the public good; and that forecloses any use of public monies for this purpose. The legislation should provide that evidence sufficient to charge any public official with such an act or acts will warrant immediate impeachment and trial to determine whether any such official or officials shall be removed from office, and barred from future public service in any official capacity.

Nothing done by law will guarantee against the suppression of information the body politic needs to make an informed judgment about who should represent them in office. But the legislation suggested above, combine with the establishment of proper structures in the U.S. House of Representatives (for example) to routinely implement its responsibility for initiating impeachments, will at least curtail the insanely self-destructive habit of using public monies to enforce the ignorance of voters constitutionally charged with the duty of making personnel judgments vital to the public good.

Of course, the greatest abuse of public funds in this regard involves systematically adopting and implementing policies intended, directly or indirectly, to bribe voters themselves for their votes. But that is a matter of the citizens’ good character. Such matters can only be addressed by restoring respect for the premises and laws, endowed by God, that inform good character and nurture the good will required to practice virtue. Can this be done in the absence of true religion, and the self-government that good faith inspires? Like George Washington, I seriously doubt it.

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Barb Wire.

Once a high-level Reagan-era diplomat, Alan Keyes is a long-time leader in the conservative movement. He is well-known as a staunch pro-life champion and an eloquent advocate of the constitutional republic, including respect for the moral basis of liberty and self-government. He has worked to promote an approach to politics based on the initiative of citizens of goodwill consonant with the with the principles of God-endowed natural right.

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