GARY MILLER, you make a grown man cry.
Using your congressional staff, and your official letterhead, to score some tickets to see the Rolling Stones? That’s a violation of federal law and leaves us, frankly, shattered.
According to a Dec. 12 story in The Times, citing records provided by former staff, the Republican congressman from Diamond Bar has his taxpayer-salaried staffers perform such personal and family chores as registering his son for college classes, checking his stock prices and getting tickets to see his favorite rock band.
But that’s almost cute compared with Miller’s real estate transactions.
There was, for example, his claim that he was forced to sell 165 acres of land to the city of Monrovia under the gun of eminent domain, an alleged threat that conveniently allowed him to shelter his proceeds from being taxed. City officials, though, said the congressman sold willingly. Unique as that may seem, the same thing happened with a Miller-owned parcel of land in Fontana. The Internal Revenue Service has been asked to investigate his coincidental claims.
Then there was Miller’s “earmark” directing $1.28 million in federal highway funds to improve land a mile from property he owned.
Now it appears that the congressman, first elected in 1998 after three years in the state Assembly, helped enrich his own real estate development firm with $25,000 in political cash in each of the last three election cycles by making his business office his campaign office and paying himself rent using campaign contributions. And his landlord, it turns out, charges thousands more per month than those of incumbents from neighboring districts. That would be questionable enough, but this year Miller ran for reelection unopposed.
It shouldn’t be asking too much for a congressman to not use government resources and insider access to pad his fortune and brighten the corners of his daily life. Congress could help discourage such abuses by passing permanent earmark reform and adopting better defined rules about conflicts of interest. Republicans could do a better job of policing their own members, and Democrats could consider running candidates against tainted incumbents.
But no rulemaking can substitute for good judgment or a sense of shame, both of which Miller appears to lack. It would be a relief if the congressman had the decency to step down and allow a true public servant to represent California’s 42nd Congressional District, but, as a wise man once said, you can’t always get what you want.