Non-policy issues always find their way into campaigns. Sometimes it is legitimate, like Bill Clinton’s rumored affairs. Other times, it is bogus, such as Barack Obama’s hounding by birthers. Where there is smoke in a personal life, questions of character are certain to follow. That is the situation with Massachusetts Rep. John Tierney.
Seeking reelection, Tierney is facing off in four debates against Richard Tisei. The debates will “focus on the serious issues facing our communities and families, such as the economy, job creation, health care, and education.” That sounds reasonable, as those are some of the most pressing issues facing Congress. However, Tierney’s wife and her two brothers are campaign issues too.
Boston.com summarizes why there are some questions to ask Tierney:
Tierney’s wife, Patrice…was convicted on tax fraud charges related to profits one of her brother’s made from an offshore gambling ring. Though Tierney has not been implicated in any wrongdoing in the gambling operation, he has faced questions about his knowledge of illegal activities in his family and whether he should have reported his wife’s earnings on his financial disclosures.
Her brothers were convicted of racketeering and other charges. One remains a fugitive.
The Tierney campaign wants voters to believe that he knew none of this was going on. Perhaps he didn’t. Yet if that is the case, then his lack of awareness should be a campaign issue as well. Tierney’s wife brought $233,000 from the gambling activities into the Tierney household. One of the brothers confessed that Tierney knew about the entire operation. So far, Tierney has been able to avoid evidence of a direct connection.
The debates were going to allow candidates time to ask each other questions. Tierney scratched that along with limiting the questions from the debate moderators. That took away Tisei’s opportunity to confront Tierney head on, but Tisei still feels the issue will find its way into the debates somehow, probably through some well-timed remarks by Tisei.
“I expect it will come up one way or another during the course of the debate,” Tisei said. “There can’t be two sets of rules, one for John Tierney and one for everyone else. He doesn’t think that he should be questioned. It’s a typical example of the arrogance that people are so upset about in Washington, D.C., that he’s displaying.”
That the debate organizers decided to play along with Tierney’s rules is pathetic. There are allegations of covering up criminal activities in this race. Corruption and politics have long been comfortable bedfellows. To ignore what is the main issue in this race, relevant issues of character, is a disservice to the voters. Tierney should face questions on his family’s activities in every debate until he gives a convincing answer why he did not know about any of it.