by Max Brantley
Oh, why not broaden the debate begun by Republican candidate Jim Keet and GOP chairman Doyle "Where there's a will there's a" Webb about free cars for constitutional officers.
They argue, with some justification, that the Constitution couldn't be clearer. It prohibits payment to constitutional officers (and legislators, too, for that matter) of "any income" other than salaries and expenses related to official duties. To the extent a free car is used for anything but official duties, even if an income tax is paid on the benefit, it is a benefit beyond those allowed in the Constitution, they argue.
So let's open the worm can.
If Messrs. Keet and Webb are going to get picky about that phrase "any income," perhaps they need to ask the court how in the world legislators (such as they have been) and other elected officials could be given state money to subsidize health insurance, both while in office and after retirement. How, too, can they receive state retirement contributions? If an old Buick is income, so, too, is cold cash for health insurance and retirement, is it not? (I have corrected the original post that indicated Keet's and Webb's legislature service came when there was enhanced counting for legislative service. That ended shortly before they arrived.)
Admittedly, Keet and Webb would have to sue some Republicans, maybe even including themselves, if they really wanted to get serious about unconstitutional exactions. But this is about principle, isn't it, not politics?