- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 16, 2006

The one thing that hasn’t prompted Sen. Chuck Schumer, chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, to rush before a camera is his organization’s identity-theft scandal. This makes sense, from where he sits. The Democratic media was never interested in the story: The Washington Post buried yesterday’s coverage of the plea bargain in its Metro section and the New York Times mentioned it only in passing. Mr. Schumer has been able to duck the story for the six months since it emerged that campaign committee staffers stole the credit report of Lt. Gov. Michael Steele of Maryland in the search for dirt. All this begs questions about the sincerity of Mr. Schumer’s pose as the scourge of identity theft — as well as the lengths to which some Democrats will go to smear Republican candidates.

The irony is pretty rich: Mr. Schumer was positioning himself grandly on identity theft with a bill to combat that crime, accompanied by several very public lashings of corporations accused of mishandling consumer information. “How is it that the CEO of the company didn’t know that [the data] had been stolen until a couple of months later?” The Schumer-Nelson comprehensive identity-theft bill, the senator promised, would “implement safeguards to prevent fraudulent access by unauthorized parties.”

Just a few months later, Democratic campaign committee staffers obtained Mr. Steele’s credit report under fraudulent pretenses. Mr. Steele — a Republican whom Democrats rightly consider a formidable opponent — was targeted for his supposedly uneven financial history by the deputy research director of the campaign committee. The deputy and her supervisor, the head of research, were placed on paid leave and later fired. Mr. Schumer never volunteered to answer the questions he fired at executives in March: How did this happen, and why didn’t you stop it?

Democratic partisans are naturally anxious to cut off the legs of this story; otherwise who knows where such a story might run. Last week, the deputy who stole the report reached a plea bargain with prosecutors; she will avoid jail time in exchange for pleading guilty. “We’re pleased to see this matter come to a close,” said a Democratic spokesman. The offender “is a fine person who made a mistake.”

But the story isn’t over; it’s larger than one staffer. Mr. Schumer should answer for the culture of criminality at the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee that allowed this misbehavior. He should further explain how he can fancy himself an identity-theft reformer when his own committee encourages thievery to cook an election.

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