Having grown up in a cop household, I've learned that once caught, some people will do almost anything to avoid going to prison, including turn on friends and associates, and sometimes even lie and entrap others to save themselves.
We saw this tendency manifest itself in South Carolina politics twenty years ago during Operation Lost Trust, where a lobbyist and a couple of corrupt legislators turned on their own friends, sending over two dozen politicos, mostly legislators to prison. In the end, the main figure, former legislator and lobbyist Rob Cobb, got off scot-free for trying to buy a kilo of cocaine.
In Cobb's case, most of those legislators and other officials who got indicted went down, caught red-handed on video and audio recordings, but some didn't.
This desire to get off the hook at any price might explain why, two decades after the embarassment of the Lost Trust scandal, we find that Jim Hirni, after copping a deal to cooperate with federal authorities after getting nailed for bribing Congressional staffers, is active in Lowcountry GOP political circles, trying to cozy up to various politicos all the way up to Presidential candidates while he awaits a long-overdue sentencing.
Among those politicos that he's currently associated with is former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum, a social conservative who was thrown out of his Senate seat in a landslide in 2006 and is considering a Presidential bid next year.
Last year, he was associated with the campaign of Governor Nikki Haley, helping organize fundraisers for her campaign.
Strangely, Hirni maintains he has distanced himself from politics:
I'm so distant from it. I'm such in a different place, both as an individual and spiritual.
This is strange as there aren't many political events in the Lowcountry that he doesn't seem to show up at, usually hanging around in the background, so it's hard to see how "distant" he is from politics.
We're also puzzled at how Santorum, who is positioning himself as a socially-conservative "values" candidate reconciles Hirni's recent legal issues with his campaign rhetoric. We just hope that Santorum is on his best behavior around Hirni and looks out for any wires or softly-blinking lights.
People make mistakes and there is a time to learn to forgive, but forgiveness has to be earned, which takes time. For such a major offense, two years' time, a considerable portion of which he has been politically active, seems a rather short period of time. Especially since he hasn't been sentenced yet.
As many in the GOP talk about reform, transparency and setting higher ethical standards, as well as how many Republicans have railed against alleged inside dealing by the Obama's administration, Hirni's ongoing associations with GOP candidates should challenge Republicans to ask themselves how much they really believe in setting a higher standard for governance.
Either Republicans believe in higher standards, or they don't. In any event, they should be candid with voters where they stand on these kinds of issues, and why they feel that way.