Bribing Supremely


Grrr. I’m running late because someone took out a utility pole in my community last night and killed power for 392 homes. I was able to finish my cartoon but I could only sit on it as there wasn’t any means to deliver or post it. And how is your July starting?

Former Virginia governor Bob McDonnell was convicted of accepting bribes while he was occupying the state’s mansion. Earlier this week the Supreme Court said “uh uh” and threw out the conviction. SCOTUS felt the directions given to the jury were too wide and that basically, hey giving stuff to elected officials is okie dokie as long as they stop before taking any official acts. An official act is a focused and concrete exercise of government power, such as a lawsuit or a hearing, which basically means: It’s going to be really hard to prosecute government officials for taking bribes.

Now the government will have to prosecute the case all over again, which has become increasingly more difficult, or just drop the issue and throw their arms in the air while cursing. McDonnell will most likely get off scott-free for accepting a Rolex, designer clothes, gifts, and loans worth more than $175,000. He also let Bobby tool around in his Ferrari.

The Highest Court In The Land probably doesn’t really understand the conflict of interest or ethics thing. They can take bribes. Oh sure they have an ethics policy, but unlike elected officials, they’re not required to disclose anything. Yeah. Clarence Thomas’ wife, Ginni, is a lobbyist whose activities have been a conflict of interest for her husband when her clients go before the court. The justices often take free trips to give speeches, which really turn into vacations. Antonin Scalia took 258 subsidized trips between 2004 to 2015. He often got a free vacation to places like Hawaii, Ireland, and Switzerland. He was on a free getaway at a hunting lodge when he died last February in Marfa, Texas. Yeah…that town’s really named “Marfa.”

A Supreme Court justice makes almost $236,000 a year. They can afford to pay for their own trip to Marfa.

Creative notes: When I lettered this cartoon I was very paranoid to get McDonnell’s name correct. Gee, why would I be paranoid with that? My former employer, The Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, VA, ran the headline “McAuliffe’s Bribery conviction tossed.” Looks OK, right? Yeah, except Terry McAuliffe is the current governor and the one who just got his convictions “tossed” is former governor Bob McDonnell. OOPS! Their goof made national news. Breitbart and Fox News staffers wet themselves from their giddiness to mock the newspaper.

You can think they messed it up because both men have “Mc” in their names. Or maybe because McAuliffe is under investigation himself. I’m sure every editor who saw the headline made sure “McAuliffe” was spelled correctly. But the biggest reason is that my former newspaper got rid of all their copy editors. They got rid of a lot of people, me being one of them. In fact, they’re on their third owner since I left.

The people who work at FLS are top notch. I’ve known the editor since my first day in 1998, before he was the editor, and when the position came open I was really hoping he’d get the job because he’s a journalist’s journalist. He’s a real pro and he doesn’t deserve this embarrassment. But he owned it, took the blame, published an apology very quickly and didn’t make excuses for it.

As I said, the folks at FLS are great newspaper people, but there’s fewer of them now and they’re in a changing system. They’re changing software in news and photography and everyone’s learning something new.

In the early 1990’s I was working my first newspaper job at The Panolian, a weekly in Panola County, Mississippi. One of my many duties was taking the prints to press 40 miles away in Grenada, Mississippi. The newspaper in Grenada didn’t have any responsibility for our content so the only two watchdogs from our staff was me, a cartoonist in his early 20’s, and a photo tech. To be honest, we probably put more thought into having dinner someplace exotic in Grenada that we didn’t have in Batesville, like Taco Bell.

One night after returning to Batesville with the A and B sections we discovered a typo on the front page. We were in the middle of stuffing the papers with ad inserts and our publisher’s 15-year-old son, David, noticed it first. He laughed and laughed. Nobody else laughed. It wasn’t dirty. It just made us look stupid. In big bold letters was a story about a “burglar.” Except we printed “burlgar.” It was in a really big font. When the paper was folded and placed in the window of the newspaper racks, there it was. BURLGAR! And it was partly my fault. My publisher wanted to scream at me but he didn’t probably because he knew I wasn’t very inexperienced and that at times I was an idiot. I did get a huge lecture. To be honest it was the first time I was told to be on the lookout for typos and errors, but I shouldn’t have needed to be told. So I understand how FLS feels this week. Every newspaper person probably has a typo story.

After that burlgar fiasco I learned my lesson and I never ever made a mistake agian.

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  1. Yeah, most of SCOTUS have no clue about political ethics. They also thought that Citizens United wouldn’t be a big deal, because everybody would see where the massive money was coming from and would vote accordingly. Justice Kennedy needed a slap upside the head that day.

    As for journalist problems, they happen. When Dan Rather was a youngster working on a radio station in Texas, one evening he put on a half-hour record of a gospel sermon and went to flirt with the waitress at the burger barn. Turns out the record needle got stuck and all they broadcast for about fifteen minutes was “Go to Hell… go to Hell… go to Hell….”

    He didn’t get fired, just barely. A few weeks later he switched the feed over to an outside source and stepped away just in time to broadcast “And now for this important word.” “Horseshit!” Dan went flying back down the hall in terror, but by the time he got to the control panel, the outside source was apologizing, so he didn’t get fired for that either.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the laugh.

      Here’s one for you and Clay as he used to work for a VA paper.

      A Virginia woman died last week over the upcoming presidential election — and the choice of voting for either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton. Her cause of death was diagnosed as Irritable Ballot Syndrome.


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