Our lawbreaking attorney general

As the top law enforcement officer of the land, the U.S. Attorney General is not only expected to enforce the law but also to obey it.

However, for John Ashcroft – author of the Constitution-defying USA Patriot Act, draper of nude statues at the Department of Justice and generally offensive zealot – ignoring the law is standard procedure. What else should we expect from the former U.S. Senator who couldn’t even beat a dead man in his home state of Missouri?

As attorney general of Missouri, Ashcroft often ran afoul of the law, refusing to enforce anything he felt violated his religious and/or moral beliefs, like the repeal of blue laws forbidding retail stores to open on Sunday or changes in state liquor laws.

His lawbreaking zealotry continued as governor, where the State Supreme Court slapped him down more than once for putting his political agenda ahead of the laws on the books.

Those who know and work with Ashcroft admit privately that he is an idiot, an ideologue who believes he answers to a higher calling than the Constitution or the law. As U.S. Attorney General, he has expanded the FBI’s ability to wiretap, monitor and harass U.S. citizens, using the public’s overwrought fear of terrorism to create a police state.

But at least one federal agency is not afraid to treat Ashcroft for what he is – a lawbreaker.

The Federal Election Commission this week slapped the Attorney General’s failed U.S. Senate Campaign (the one where he lost re-election to a dead man) with a $37,000 fine for “at least four violations of federal campaign law.” The violations include illegally transferring $110,000 from Ashcroft’s presidential exploratory campaign committee to his Senate campaign.

Ashcroft’s violations were so blatant that even the three Republican members of the commission voted for the penalties. In fact, the only dissenter was Democrat Ellen L. Weintraub, who felt the penalty was too light because it did not “adequately reflect the severity of the issue.”

Republicans, of course, are downplaying the violations and fine, saying it was a “garden variety complaint.” That’s like the Democrats saying Bill Clinton’s Monica Lewinsky scandal was “only about sex.”

When combined with Ashcroft’s behavior in the past, the campaign violations show a pattern of disregard for the law and a continued contempt for playing by rules.

Even Ashcroft’s closest advisors and friends will admit he is overbearing and self-righteous, but his supporters claim he acts in the best interests of the country.

U.S. citizens who have been manhandled by the FBI’s goon squads disagree. Those whose rights have been trampled by the USA Patriot Act have a different view of where his interests lie.

The National Voting Rights Institute Wednesday called for a Justice Department investigation into Ashcroft’s Senate campaign. It won’t happen. Ashcroft runs the Justice Department.

What should happen, of course, is that George W. Bush, the man who promised to run an ethical administration, should tell Ashcroft to quit and fire him if he doesn’t.

That also won’t happen. Bush has his own problems with ethics and honesty.

So a lawbreaker named John Ashcroft will remain where he is and continue to be a disgrace to his office as well as a constant reminder that the Bush Administration and the party that backs him doesn’t give a damn about the law, the Constitution or the United States of America.