Only Himself to Blame

Worse for Jones, his was a stupid lie. All he had to do on June 16, in response to Warner's question, was acknowledge that Dyches had threatened to ground him. If Jones had done that, there never would have been a July 16 hearing in which his character was decimated and the bipartisan opposition to his nomination solidified.

So why didn't Jones tell the truth? Two reasons: arrogance and ego. Jones was arrogant enough to believe that nobody would challenge him, and his ego simply wouldn't allow him to admit that he had failed at something so miserably that his commanding officer had to threaten him with grounding in order to make him stop flying.

"I believe there are serious questions about Daryl Jones's personal integrity," Dyches testified on July 16. "I believe that service before self is a fundamental disconnect in Daryl's life. His life, in my opinion, is governed by his own personal goals. His actions speak to that, loud and clear."

Senators agreed. "We don't expect him to be perfect," said Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.), "but we do expect him to be honest."

Now the bond deal. In 1997 the county selected Douglas James Securities as an underwriter to sell $200 million in bonds to help finance expansion at Miami International Airport. The county's professional staff and financial advisers had recommended against using Douglas James, arguing that the small Miami Beach-based company had neither the experience nor the capital to guarantee successful completion of the deal. To alleviate these concerns, Craig James, founder of the securities firm, hired Jones to help persuade county commissioners to award the contract to Douglas James.

Forget about allegations that Jones's role as a lobbyist should have been disclosed in financial documents or that his political campaign contributions violated rules of the Securities and Exchange Commission, which is conducting an inquiry into the bond issue.

Look instead at the deal itself. During his testimony before the Armed Services Committee, Jones said he became involved in it because a larger company was trying to steal the business from Douglas James. "I was fairly miffed about this," Jones declared. "I didn't think it was right." Jones portrayed himself as being indignant that a small, minority-owned firm was being attacked and that he went to Douglas James's defense because he knew it was the right thing to do.

His righteous indignation certainly didn't get in the way of his raking in a $90,000 fee for meeting with county staff and various commissioners. He acknowledged he had nothing to do with pricing the bonds, marketing the bonds, or selling the bonds. He didn't draft or review any of the transaction's legal papers. All he did was lobby.

What made Jones the ideal lobbyist before the county commission? Perhaps it had something to do with his being a state senator in line to become Secretary of the Air Force; as the head of the air force, Jones would be in an ideal position to expedite the transfer of Homestead Air Force Base to Miami-Dade County -- a transfer commissioners have been seeking desperately.

Jones should have known that his actions would raise the specter of him trading on his name and political office for personal financial gain. His recklessness was striking, and once again betrayed his arrogance.

It also seems strange that, at a time when the Miami Herald has decided to unleash its own jihad against the evils of lobbying, Daryl Jones's actions would conveniently escape its attention. The Herald wanted Jones to be confirmed because it would enhance Miami's image. Those views are fine as long as they are confined to the editorial page. When they spill over to the manner in which Jones is covered -- or in this case not covered -- as a news story, the Herald is failing the community it is supposed to be serving.

On Friday I'll be participating in a panel discussion on government ethics hosted by the City of North Miami Beach. Others on the panel include U.S. District Court Judge William Hoeveler, Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle, U.S. Attorney Tom Scott, Miami-Dade County Manager Merrett Stierheim, and Robert Arnold Meyers, executive director of the newly created Miami-Dade County Commission on Ethics and Public Trust. The moderators: Tom Fiedler and Herald columnist Robert Steinback.

The symposium begins at 12:30 p.m. at the North Miami Beach Performing Arts Center, 17011 NE Nineteenth Ave. If you're interested in attending, call 305-948-2900.

These days we spend a lot of time talking about the ethics -- or lack of them -- manifested by our elected officials. That's good. But it's easy to condemn politicians caught on videotape stuffing money into their pockets in exchange for a vote on a particular contract.

The more challenging question: What should we do with a politician like Daryl Jones?

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