The federal indictment of Martha Stewart is sleazy, unfair, and smacks of political payback. The federal government hopes that you’ll just glance over the news headlines, figure she must have done something wrong, and go on with your day. Without noticing what has really happened. Without asking for details, or even more shockingly, questioning the actions of federal prosecutors at all.
Well, it’s time you did.
Here’s the bottom line Scary Thing about what’s happening to Martha—she’s not charged with insider trading—she is essentially being prosecuted for protesting her innocence of that now nonexistent charge. Let me see if I can unravel the absolute absurdity of the situation for you.
As you all probably know, the Feds launched an investigation to root out suspicions of insider trading—an investigation which actually cleared Martha, as evidenced by the lack of an indictment. So, instead she is being accused of obstructing the investigation that proved her innocence. Is that Mr. Orwell I hear?
Last time I checked, someone was innocent until proven guilty in this country. We are supposedly free to shout our declaration of innocence from every mountaintop if we so choose. Even Martha Stewart has that right. Despite the existence of that rather important little Constitutional right—the Feds had their Big Important Press Conference and huffed and puffed that this was a case about lying—that declaring her innocence to the public was actually a clever ruse to defraud investors in Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia by trying to get them to believe she was innocent so her stock price would climb.
Martha was and is being publicly raked over the coals during this investigation. Is she, because of her position, expected to say nothing? Is she required to remain silent because her particular protestations of innocence may affect her company? Think about it—when anyone protests their innocence it is meant to influence family, friends, co-workers, the community. Who, really, wants to be thought of as a crook, especially when you are innocent and are to be supposedly considered innocent until a jury of your peers has or has not decided otherwise?
But think a little further—are we to allow the federal government to send a message that if any one of us is charged with a crime we had better not declare our innocence?
This is why what’s happening to Martha Stewart should immediately concern you. Much of our law is determined by what we are willing to accept—even tacitly by our silence. Federal prosecutors, and consequently local authorities, will take your silent acceptance of this totalitarian action against Stewart as permission to apply the same hammer to all those who defend themselves. This is something we must reject as loudly and as publicly as possible.
There is another factor which must be considered, as well. Many of you will not like this, but if I’m known for anything, it’s fairness. I was appalled, as I know many of you were, when the Bill Clinton administration seemed to be using the powers of the federal government to punish people he perceived to be his enemies. As reported by Newsmax in 2002, opponents of Clinton were audit targets of the IRS.
Frankly, it’s in the nature of government to abuse its power, to seek to become larger, and more controlling. It does not matter which party is in charge, or who is in the White House; it is the nature of the beast itself to use power, and abuse it if given the chance.
In this case, it must be noted that Martha Stewart is one of the largest donors to the Democratic Party and Democratic candidates. She has given, to my dismay, thousands of dollars directly to people like Al Gore and Hillary Clinton, as well as over $125,000 in soft money to the Democratic Party itself. The sad details can be found at http://www.opensecrets.org/indivs/index.asp. While this is a site you should use often, in this instance type in “Stewart, Martha” and you too will see that she has given over $150,000 to Democratic party causes during just the past few years. While many of us do not like this fact, we should like less a government that feels it has the right to use the Federal-800-Pound-Gorilla to nail you if it doesn’t like your politics.
So, as Kenneth Lay is lounging on some yacht somewhere after helping to destroy the investments and lives of untold numbers of people, and as the bankrupt WorldCom giant (now called MCI) just “won” the multi-million dollar contract to build a wireless network in Iraq, despite having disguised $3.8 billion dollars in expenses as fictitious earnings, Martha Stewart has a personal loss of half a billion dollars and faces years in jail. Of course, Enron and WorldCom have contributed to Democratic and Republican candidates. (You can find these details at opensecrets.org, too.) Martha has maintained loyalty to one party—unfortunately for her, not the one currently in charge.
Even if you don't like the fact that Stewart supports the Dems, it would be the height of hypocrisy to be appalled and angered with the Clinton abuse of government power (remember Marc Rich?), but give a free pass to the Bush administration because we like him and this administration’s policies. Federal prosecutors are not meant to be anyone’s attack dogs, and certainly not at the expense of the Constitution. Make no mistake--the federal witch hunt of Martha Stewart is specious and stinks of payback and opportunism. With apologies to the woman under fire, none of this is a good thing. For any of us.