ALLEN WEST AND HIS CHIEF OF STAFF…. In the new year, Florida’s Allen West (R), elected to Congress last week, will instantly become one of the most deranged individuals on Capitol Hill, easily joining the ranks of Michele Bachmann, Steve King, and Louis Gohmert. If there were any doubts about this, West settled them when he hired his new chief of staff.
First, a little background. West first gained notoriety during his military service in Iraq, when he was forced to retire from the Army for engaging in abusive interrogation techniques. More recently, he’s incorporated violent rhetoric into his campaign speeches, and made demonstrably ridiculous claims about his own background. Last month, we learned about West’s ties to a violent gang of criminals, which the Justice Department believes is involved in drug running, arson, prostitution, robbery, and murder. Last week, he nevertheless won by eight points.
This week, Allen began hiring a team. For his chief of staff, the congressman-elect chose a right-wing talk-radio host — whose show he’s been on more than 100 times — named Joyce Kaufman.
There are two angles to this to consider. The first is that Kaufman spews a lot of hate.
She said at a rally, with West standing by, “Calling illegal immigrants ‘undocumented workers’ is like calling a drug dealer a pharmacist without a license.” She was furious that children of illegal immigrants were educated in public schools and received health care at emergency rooms. “There are people who want to change your way of life, and some of them may be your gardeners,” she said.
Her anger is not limited to illegal immigrants. “There’s no way I’m going to live in a country that’s been radically Muslim-ized … and I’m not afraid to say it,” she said at a protest in Jupiter. She also said at the protest that the United States was “this close” to moving towards “fascistic and tyrannical rule.”
That’s really just scratching the surface. The congressman-elect’s chief of staff has said Jewish people who voted for President Obama “don’t embrace being Jews anymore.” On illegal immigration, Kaufman has also said, “If you commit a crime while you’re here, we should hang you and send your body back to where you came from, and your family should pay for it.”
Perhaps most strikingly, Kaufman delivered a speech this year raising the prospect of an armed insurrection against the United States government: “[I]f ballots don’t work, bullets will.”
And then there’s the ethical problem of West hiring a radio personality who isn’t quitting her job.
George Zornick explained yesterday:
WFTL said in a statement that Kaufman will continue to work for the station but not as a host: she has been “retained as our Washington correspondent, with details on her new exciting schedule to be announced soon.”
Carol Dixon, counsel for the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, told ThinkProgress that she had not heard of Kaufman’s situation in particular, but said that generally this setup could be “potentially problematic.”
“There may be potential confidentiality issues — some of the issues she’s reporting on may be gained by virtue of her House status. At a staff level it seems problematic,” Dixon said. The committee’s rules also say Kaufman must earn a fair market salary from WFTL, and refrain from using any office equipment for her radio duties.