It’s a common argument used in the case against greater voting rights or statehood for the District of Columbia: Why should the residents of the nation’s capital be given full and equal voting representation in Congress when its local officials have been shown to be corrupt? The situation involving D.C. Councilmember Harry Thomas Jr. (D-Ward 5), who resigned last week before pleading guilty to federal charges that he stole more than $350,000 from the city and filed false tax returns, certainly doesn’t help the D.C. voting rights cause.
The most recent corruption spectacle is particularly ill-timed. A delegation of D.C. officials will soon be heading to New Hampshire to press the cause of the “Last Colony” before state legislators in Concord, who could pass a resolution calling for greater voting rights for the residents of the nation’s capital.
As the Examiner reported this weekend, Councilmember David Catania (I-At-Large) is particularly angry with the current state of affairs in the D.C. government, which, beyond the Thomas drama, involves ongoing federal inquires into allegations of campaign corruption by Mayor Vincent Gray (D) and D.C. Council Chairman Kwame Brown (D).
“How absurd is it for us, really, to try and make the case across the country for voting rights and statehood — both are legitimate and well deserved — when people across this country are treated to a routine diet of the latest shenanigans of this government?” asked Catania, who called for Thomas to resign last summer.
But should D.C.’s local corruption prevent Washingtonians from having equal standing with residents who reside in the 50 states? It’s a treacherous argument to make.
Washingtonian editor Garrett Graff got into trouble with D.C. voting rights advocates when he tweeted last June: “Congress might be more willing to give DC more rights if DC elected people who seemed more worthy of power.”