Editor’s note: Michael Ackley’s columns may include satire and parody based on current events, and thus mix fact with fiction. He assumes informed readers will be able to tell which is which.
“Welcome! Welcome to ‘I Didn’t Know Anonymous’!” bubbled an ebullient Rep. Charles Rangel, greeting the club’s newest inductee.
“Yeah, welcome aboard!” echoed Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner.
“@#*&ing-A!” exclaimed former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich.
“Indeed,” said a more subdued Rep. Maxine Waters of south Los Angeles County.
The distinguished government officials were assembled to admit Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson of Dallas to the growing and not-at-all-exclusive membership of “I Didn’t Know Anonymous,” a support group for folks who didn’t know about rules they were accused of violating.
“Hi, I’m Eddie,” said the representative shyly.
“Hi, Eddie!” spoke the membership as one.
“Why are you here?” asked Rangel.
“Because I didn’t know,” answered Johnson. “I didn’t know I shouldn’t award my family members college scholarships from the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation.”
“Why should you know?” said Geithner comfortingly. “‘Nepotism’ derives from the Latin word for ‘nephew.’ How could you know it also covered other family members.”
“Nepotism?’ said Johnson. “I’m accused of grandkid-ism.”
“@#*&ing-A!” said Blagojevich.
“The point is,” said Geithner, “you couldn’t possibly know giving your grandkids college scholarships was out of bounds just because the foundation rules said ‘no family members.’”
“That’s right,” said Johnson. “After all, grandchildren aren’t members of my immediate family.”
“It’s just like me and my so-called tax evasion. I didn’t know I had to pay $34,000 in Social Security and Medicare taxes,” said Geithner. “Sure, the IMF told me I had to pay them, but how was I to know the memos I received really meant what they said?”
“Amen to that!” exclaimed Rangel. “The same goes for me and those apartments in New York I wasn’t supposed to be occupying. I didn’t know I wasn’t supposed to have more than one. Besides, none of my constituents cares that I have four of them.
“And those filthy news media! They kept calling them rent controlled apartments when they’re actually rent stabilized apartments.”
“@#*&ing-A!” chimed Blagojevich.
“Well, I’m certainly well aware of ethics rules,” said Waters. “I did absolutely nothing wrong in helping a community bank obtain federal bail-out funds.”
Waters’ tone gradually rose as she added, “After all, what has the world come to when a congressional representative can’t help out a vital financial institution in her own district?”
“You are exactly on point,” said Rangel. “What does it matter that your husband was on the bank’s board of directors or that he owned shares of the bank’s stock? You have to take care of your district.”
“I certainly didn’t know it would become a question of ethics,” said Waters.
“Let’s all go to the bar and mix up some drinks with the terrific rum I brought back from the Dominican Republic,” said Rangel.
“Hey, you had tax trouble there, didn’t you?” asked Geithner.
“Well, I didn’t know I had to pay taxes on the income from my beach villa,” said Rangel, “and I didn’t know because I was so busy writing tax law as chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.”
“We’re all busy public servants,” interjected a member representing the club’s large contingent of California legislators. “We didn’t know people would object to our collecting $142 per diem when we weren’t actually in Sacramento on legislative business.
“Look, our base pay of $95,000-plus a year just don’t go as far as it used to, and when we’re back in our districts, even though we’re close to home, it’s still tough to make ends meet.”
The legislator began to blubber, “You (sob) don’t expect us (sob) to eat (sniffle) fast food, do you? (sob) Do you!?”
The others gathered around to console the disconsolate lawmaker.
“There, there,” said Johnson softly. “How could you know? More importantly, how can the people who charge us with ethical lapses possibly know how hard we work for them, how hard it is to keep straight the rules we’re supposed to live by.
“They so often seem to forget that we are … well … special people.”
“@#*&ing-A!” said Blagojevich.