Where going to jail is a campaign advantage
||Washington Examiner (DC)
||Tuesday, March 20, 2012
District of Columbia voters have been remarkably tolerant of their politicians' human failings.
But with ethical clouds already hanging over the mayor and various D.C. Council members, it's probably not a good idea to elect a tax-evading felon to represent a city that demands congressional representation based on the federal taxes it pays -- even if the post is strictly ceremonial.
Peter Ross, who is running for D.C. shadow senator in the April 3 Democratic primary, was one of four protesters arrested in December during a DC Vote rally on Capitol Hill.
At his hearing last week, Ross refused the typical fine and probation, demanding that D.C. Magistrate Judge Frederick Sullivan throw him in jail instead.
A startled Sullivan asked the prosecutor, "Can he do that?" before obliging the too-willing defendant and sentencing him to one day in the slammer and a mandatory $50 contribution to the Victims of Violent Crime Fund. Six hours later, Ross was released.
Sullivan only got to consider this unusual request because incumbent shadow senator Michael D. Brown had called up the first magistrate judge assigned to the case and urged her not to send his opponent to jail on the misdemeanor charge, claiming Ross's arrest was nothing but a publicity stunt.
Brown bragged that he, too, had been arrested by Capitol Police last April, along with D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray, Council Chairman Kwame Brown and 200 others when they sat in the middle of Constitution Avenue to protest pro-voucher and anti-abortion riders attached to a House funding bill.
Ross and three other protesters arrested last month for blocking Independence Avenue had essentially the same beef. In D.C., going to jail for the "right" to spend public funds to kill unborn babies is viewed by some as a political advantage.
Ross himself acknowledged that asking for cell time was "a bit much, even preposterous to some," claiming he only did so on behalf of D.C. statehood, to which he pledged his life and at least $202,000 of his fortune.
His sacred honor is long gone. On March 2, 2007, Ross pleaded guilty in federal court to one felony count of tax evasion for failing to remit more than $200,000 he withheld from his employees' paychecks to the Internal Revenue Service between 1998 and 2002.
The IRS found out about the theft when workers at Ross's Georgetown furniture company filed their tax returns. Five years earlier, he failed to disclose $288,061.80 worth of inventory when Spectrum Ltd. filed a voluntary petition for bankruptcy, according to a Department of Justice press release.
If that were not bad enough, Ross twice failed to disclose annual income of over $50,000 he received from a family trust because, DOJ said, he "did not want the IRS to garnish the trust income."
The apparently shameless Ross, who has run for public office several times in the past, recently lent his campaign $202,000 -- out of which he is reportedly collecting a salary.
Not only is he far outspending Brown, he's spending more on this made-up position than some council candidates are spending on their races for real public official jobs.
First elected in 1990, D.C.'s "shadow" senators are modeled on the shadow opposition Cabinets in parliamentary systems. It's a purely ceremonial title, like an honorary degree, with no votes or official standing in Congress.
Ross promises that the first thing he's planning to do if elected as shadow senator is to refuse the leave the U.S. Senate until he's seated or arrested ... again.
He will keep breaking the law until he can make the law -- hardly the message even sympathetic members of Congress want to hear.