Of Political Hacks, Chicken Sandwiches, and the Vatican

Political hack Michael Hough, the chief of staff for Representative Alexander X. Mooney, (R-W. Va.) has done it again, in an apparent attempt to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. It seems that Hough does not understand that the prime directive of any chief of staff is to keep the boss out of trouble.

Hough is not only a carpetbagging resident of Maryland, but is also a sitting state senator from the RINO heartland of that state. He is concurrently running for county executive of Frederick, Maryland. As a result, in an egregious example of political distracted driving, he has steered the office of the second congressional district of West Virginia and its representative straight into the maw of the Office of Congressional Ethics.

This, from an alleged political professional hired to steer the congressman with Tarzan-like agility, through the tangled political jungle that is Capitol Hill.

One can safely conclude that this disaster is the direct product of gross inattention by Hough, a power-hungry bureaucrat so bent on promoting himself that he has grossly mangled that one paramount function: keep the boss out of trouble.

Apparently Hough is so busy “Houghing” in his state senator seat and running for Frederick county executive that he has become utterly myopic about his plum job as chief of staff to a mere West Virginia congressman. His self-aggrandizing tunnel vision has made him a bit like Mr. Magoo attempting to give a tour of Hollywood, only to wind up breast-stroking through the La Brea tar pits

And if you think that dealing with an ethics investigation is easier than being up to your neck in thick, black, malodorous, eye-stinging, breathtakingly caustic asphalt gunk, you might want to have a little tête-á-tête with the tour guide. In fact, negotiating the tar pits would be easier than coming out of an ethics investigation looking good, even if you’ve done nothing wrong.

Hough, who it appears already has trouble managing a tiny MRA staff (Members Representational Allowance) of no more than 18 and no more than four part-timers, with a budget of around $1.3 million, has managed to get his boss accused of “misspending” $49,000 of campaign funds. And while Hough isn’t Mooney’s campaign manager, his number one job is still: keep the boss out of trouble.

But that’s only a detail to Hough, who has the temerity to run for the job of Frederick County executive with 2,175 employees and a $46 million budget! Unfortunately for Frederick, Hough seems to have the ego of Tarzan but only the human resources skills of Cheetah.

If Hough can’t manage to simply keep the boss out of trouble, imagine the cataclysm he might visit upon the unsuspecting residents of Frederick County. 

Houghmageddon! A giant, stinking morass of ineptitude bubbling forth and begging for a coup-de-grâce from the nearest passing asteroid!

But back to that pesky ethics investigation. Two of the accusations put forth to the OCE, and over which Hough may have had some control, boggle the mind. 

The first is the most embarrassing. Fifty-three rounds of purchases at the local Ranson, West Virginia Chick-Fil-A attributed to the congressman, who happens to live nearby. They totaled about $1,900—an average of $36 a visit. That works out to roughly five Chick-Fil-A club sandwiches at 520 calories each for a total of 137,000 calories!

Maybe Hough didn’t pick up on that trend because he sincerely believes the congressman is single-handedly working to diminish climate change through lowering demand for methane-producing cows. 

Or maybe Hough is proud that the congressman’s recent official mailing—which Chief of Staff Hough surely must have approved—seems to portray a bigger, better Alex Mooney.  

Maybe he won’t mind the Boss Hogg jokes. Could Hough be putting his boss in a white suit, next?

The second odd expenditure, according to Roll Call, is something like $19,000 of campaign funds spent at Saint James Church and Saint Zita’s Gift Shop in Charles Town, West Virginia, also near the congressman’s home.

As I once quipped, Mooney looks good in a mitre, and since he‘s being redistricted out of a job next cycle, there’s always the Vatican.And while that killjoy, Pope Benedict XV, mandated in 1917 that a cardinal must be a priest first, there is always cardinalis in pectore, or secret cardinal, which Benedict’s edict did not cover. Pope John Paul II appointed four of them, including one whose name still hasn’t been made public.

If the good congressman were a secret cardinal,  the alleged expenditures might be considered “professional education” and run to Latin lessons, a turibulum, pastilles, an aspergillum and matching aspersorium. 

He could put in many practice hours diffusing the smoking incense and gracefully dispensing holy water, while the OCE determines his fate, and his chief of staff tangos toward his next job opportunity.

One last thought: If Alex Mooney does make it to Rome after ethics investigators are done with him, he would be well advised not to hire Mike Hough as his acolyte: Hough is liable to burn down the entire freaking Vatican just trying to light the incense. 

Dominus Vobiscum….

Oh! Just one more thing. 

I took the liberty of running down to the local print shop and had some bumper stickers made up in anticipation of his title changing from “The Honorable” to “His Eminence.” 

I’m sure Mooney will be thrilled (thrilled!) that even in the middle of a messy ethics investigation, the very next time he gets a chicken club sandwich he will see the bumper stickers all over his “native” Charles Town, West Virginia. 

Alex Mooney for cardinal. It has a nice ring to it. So what if he loses the second district? He looks awesome wearing a mitre.


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About Chuck de Caro

Chuck de Caro is a contributor to American Greatness. He was CNN's very first Special Assignments Correspondent. Educated at Marion Military Institute and the U.S. Air Force Academy, he later served with the 20th Special Forces Group (Airborne). He has taught information warfare (SOFTWAR) at the National Defense University and the National Intelligence University. He was an outside consultant for the Pentagon’s Office of Net Assessment for 25 years. A pilot since he was 17, he is currently working on a book about the World War I efforts of Fiorello La Guardia, Giulio Douhet, and Gianni Caproni, which led directly to today’s U.S. Air Force Global Strike Command.

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