Furio Giunta now batting for Ronald Reagan

Had a conversation the other day with one of those who populate the Capitol hallways at this time of year. This person, who has bemoaned the degeneration of the Missouri legislature in recent years asked, “Since when did it become the role of the Missouri Senate to be the enforcer for the Republican Party? Since when did it become the role of the Missouri Senate to extract revenge on someone who disagreed with the Speaker of the House?” Then as I paused to think of a diplomatic, neutral, answer came the next question, “Remember Furio Giunta?”
Uh, no, I don’t think I do. A number of legislators with Italian backgrounds have gone through the legislature in the last four decades, but I don’t recall anybody named Furio let alone anybody named Giunta. “Look him up on the internet,” said the other half of the conversation. I had to ask how to spell Furio Giunta. Then I looked him up.
Furio Giunta seems to be an amalgam of some Republican Senators who plan to politically kneecap former Representative Dennis Fowler of Advance when Fowler’s nomination as a member of the Missouri Board of Probation and Parole comes up for Senate confirmation.
You see, Furio Giunta was one of Tony Soprano’s top enforcers for a few years of the popular television series about a New Jersey mob boss. Giunta’s first job was to beat up a businessman who had refused to pay tribute to the mob, broke the man’s arm, and shot him in the knee to teach him a lesson and to send a message to anybody else who thought of defying the boss. Tony thought Furio done a great job and liked him a lot until learning that Furio and Mrs. Soprano had almost had an affair, at which point Mr. Soprano told Mrs. Soprano that certain people were looking for Furio and if they found him, Furio would be a dead man.
Dennis Fowler is the true-life equivalent of the television series’ businessman who didn’t follow orders from the boss, in this case, House Speaker Tim Jones, who wanted badly to overthrow Governor Nixon’s veto of a tax cut bill that Nixon claimed was so poorly-worded that it was stuffed with unintended consequences. Fowler, a Republican, apparently had done the unforgiveable. He had listened to what the Governor said and what people back home told him and—believe it or not, he had read the bill—and determined that, by George, the Governor and others had a point. He was being told he had to vote for a lousy piece of legislation because, as a member of the Republican super-majority, he was supposed to be a good drone and toe the party line. Unfortunately, as it seems to be turning out for him, Fowler and fourteen other courageous Republicans jumped out of the Speaker’s ship and sided with Democrats to block the veto override. “If you want me to vote strictly Party lines, send a monkey. It’s cheaper,” he recently said in a statement.
We’ve seen Speakers of the House penalize fellow party members for not toeing the line or, more appropriately, not fingering the right voting button on their desks. Chairmanships have been taken away. Committee assignments have been withdrawn. We’ve even seen a time when a Speaker took away the office of an uncooperative Representative and banished him to a cubbyhole. But we don’t recall ever seeing the Senate become Furio Giunta because somebody was no longer available for the Speaker to punish, assuming the Speaker would have punished him to begin with.
Before this session began, Fowler accepted an appointment from the Governor to serve on the state probation and parole board. Opposing the appointment of someone who is not qualified for a state position is one thing. But Dennis Fowler has 38 years in law enforcement. Both he and the Governor say the appointment is not a payoff for the vote against the override last September. Fowler told the Associated Press he took the job because it was a chance to get back “to the business I know.”
But in the eyes of some Senate Republicans, taking a job for which one is eminently qualified after having the courage to think for himself on the veto override deserves a good kneecapping. And apparently, some Senators think they have to punish him because the Speaker can’t. They’ve promised to take away his job because he thought for himself.
Senate Majority Floor Leader Ron Richard has gone full Furio, saying, “Republicans need to act like Republicans, and I’m tired of rewarding Republicans who don’t act like Republicans.” We’d like to see the Senator’s written definition of how Republicans are supposed to act when they’re acting like Republicans, given his difficulties keeping all of his GOP frogs in his own wheelbarrow. Perhaps along the way he can explain why any person in public office of whatever party should be punished for independent thinking and deciding party loyalty should not obligate a legislator to put bad legislation on the books—and in the process why that thinking should deprive a state agency of the service of a qualified public servant.
Senator Brad Lager played the game of saying what he thought although he said he didn’t want to say it. “I don’t want to say that he’s getting bought off, but that’s sure what it looks like. I just don’t think there’s a place for that, and I intend on stopping it.” That makes a lot of sense, doesn’t it? He’s going to stop something that he doesn’t want to say is going on because there’s no place for that, although he doesn’t want to say what it is that there’s no place for, notwithstanding denials from Governor Nixon (“That’s just blatantly false.”) and from Fowler.
Lager has placed his feet on a slippery path with that non-accusation that is an accusation or at least it looks like an accusation. One of the Senate’s unwritten rules that has served for decades to keep debate civil is that a Senator never questions the motives behind another Senator’s vote. Although Fowler is not a Senator, he is a fellow member of the General Assembly. Lager must be careful that in exercising his ability to question the motives of another lawmaker, he is waiving the protection of the unwritten rule and leaving his own actions open to suggestions from fellow lawmakers who might not want to say what they say that his vote “looks like” he’d been bought off. Such publicly-voiced suggestions are destructive to reputations and good order and decorum in debate.
We ran into the person in the hallway again a couple of days after Furio was first mentioned. “Do you know the Eleventh Commandment?” I asked. “Oh, you mean the thing Ronald Reagan said,” my acquaintance responded.
Well, actually it didn’t start with Roald Reagan although he popularized it. The Eleventh Commandment was created by California Republican Chairman Gaylord Parkinson during Reagan’s first campaign for Governor in 1966 that was turning into a slugfest. Parkinson told the contenders, “Thou shalt not speak ill of any Republican.” His following line is not often quoted, but it was, “Henceforth, if any Republican has a grievance against another, that grievance is not to be bared publicly.” President Reagan said he followed that advice throughout his political career.
But it’s not Ronald Reagan’s spirit joining us in the hallways outside the Senate to discuss the Fowler nomination. It’s the spirit of Furio Giunta. And it’s not just outside the chamber in the hallway.

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2 thoughts on “Furio Giunta now batting for Ronald Reagan

  1. The odds of Nixon picking him for high paying pension commissioner. Job had he not switched his alliance were slim to zero. If it walks like a payoff ,quacks like a payoff , and so . . . It’s a payoff.

  2. “Republicans acting like Republicans,” says Senator Richard, one of the two votes that prevented the veto override of the Second Amendment Protection Act–both Republican senators. I call shenanigans!

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