A Trust Betrayed

After the Clarence Thomas hearings, you probably don't want to hear anything more about the Senate Judiciary Committee. But news is out that the Judiciary Committee is holding up another nomination. This time, it's for a federal judgeship. And this time, it's for a very good reason. The Bush administration has nominated K. Michael Moore, Director of the U.S. Marshals Service, to become a federal judge. But Arizona Senator Dennis DeConcini is doing all he can to block Moore's confirmation. Why? Because DeConcini says while Moore was head of the Marshals Service, he spent too much federal money on personal luxuries. A case in point: When Moore renovated his office suite, he installed a full kitchen and plush carpeted dining room for official luncheons. Total cost: over $15,000. DeConcini charges that Moore broke a law requiring advance permission from Congress before spending that much money to redecorate an office. Only weeks after DeConcini's announcement, Moore did it again. He spent more than $20,000 in taxpayers' money to fly a government jet to Los Angeles to participate in a ceremony. Total cost was 7 times what it would have cost to fly coach at government rates. Perhaps you're not familiar with the U.S. Marshals Service. I am. I was in its custody for a while when I was a prisoner after Watergate. It's a sort of federal sheriff's department. It escorts prisoners, serves writs, keeps security in the courts. Good and necessary services, I grant. But does a sheriff really need a swank dining room, with plush pile carpet, co-ordinated wallpaper, and brass chandeliers? Moore seems to think our taxes are meant to pay for his luxury, not our safety. I don't mean to pick on one federal marshal. But he exemplifies an attitude that is becoming rampant in government that treats taxpayer money as booty for the taking. The state was instituted by God to serve important functions: to protect us from crime and from foreign invasion, and to maintain public order and public services. When citizens pay their taxes, they are expressing a public trust--a trust that the money will in fact be used for the basic functions proper to government. When officials use it instead for their own personal luxuries, that is a betrayal of the public trust. The very people who are supposed to be public servants see the public as their servants. There's always a temptation in handling other people's money. Especially money that can be made available simply by passing a law and raising taxes. The state is easily tempted to use its coercive power to take the hard-earned money of its citizens and use it for their own perks or pet projects. The book of Romans says the state wields its sword--its coercive power--to restrain evil. It does not say the sword should be wielded to provide government officials with private dining rooms or jaunts across the country in private jets. Senator DeConcini vows he will hold up Moore's nomination until he pays back the $15,000 for redoing his dining room. I say, stick to your guns, Senator. This is as good a place as any to draw the line. To require government officials to live up to the public trust invested in them.


Chuck Colson



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