Adapted from remarks given Monday in the rotunda of the Pennsylvania State Capitol.
This Hanukkah you may want to think twice before selecting Asher’s Chocolate as a gift. Instead of Hanukkah gelt, you may be sharing Hanukkah guilt because of the company’s owner and his history of public corruption.
However, let’s start by talking about the presidential election. On November 8, Americans may have thought that they were voting for the Clinton/Kaine ticket or the Trump/Pence ticket. However, in fact, they were voting for a slate of anonymous “electors” whose names do not even appear on the ballot in most states.
According to the National Archives:
There is no Constitutional provision or Federal law that requires Electors to vote according to the results of the popular vote in their states. Some states, however, require Electors to cast their votes according to the popular vote. These pledges fall into two categories—Electors bound by state law and those bound by pledges to political parties.
The U.S. Supreme Court has held that the Constitution does not require that electors be completely free to act as they choose, and therefore, political parties may extract pledges from electors to vote for the parties’ nominees. Some state laws provide that so-called “faithless Electors” may be subject to fines or may be disqualified for casting an invalid vote and be replaced by a substitute elector. The Supreme Court has not specifically ruled on the question of whether pledges and penalties for failure to vote as pledged may be enforced under the Constitution. No elector has ever been prosecuted for failing to vote as pledged.
We have entrusted immense power in the hands of these electors, since in fact it is they, not us, who chose the president of the United States. Alexander Hamilton could not imagine a national presidential campaign in post-Colonial America, so he proposed the Electoral College as a vehicle for the states to come to an informed judgment and avoid the election of anyone “not in an eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualifications.” To Hamilton these electors would be:
men most capable of analyzing the qualities adapted to the station and acting under circumstances favorable to deliberation, and to a judicious combination of all the reasons and inducements which were proper to govern their choice. (Federalist Papers 68)
Hamilton expressed confidence that:
It will not be too strong to say, that there will be a constant probability of seeing the station filled by characters pre-eminent for ability and virtue.
Who Chooses the Electors?
The slate of electors in most states are chosen by the various political parties’ establishments or at their state or district conventions. Some are chosen because of the office they held or aspired to. In a few states, including Pennsylvania, the candidates themselves choose their slates of electors.
In light of the events since the election, I wanted to contact the elector corresponding to my congressional district and urge him to vote for anyone but Donald Trump. But first, I had to find out who this elector was.
According to Pennsylvania’s Certificate of Ascertainment, the elector for Pennsylvania’s 1st Congressional District is Robert Asher.
Who is Robert Asher?
Is he, as Alexander Hamilton had hoped, a character “pre-eminent for ability and virtue.”
Sadly, this is not the case.
You may have heard of Robert Asher of Asher’s chocolates, known for its selection of local, gourmet, kosher chocolate confections.
However, back in 1987, when Bob was chair of the Pennsylvania State Republican Party, he along with Pennsylvania State Treasurer Bud Dwyer were convicted of perjury, bribery, racketeering and conspiracy. Bud Dwyer committed suicide on television just before sentencing, but Robert Asher survived to spend a year behind bars in federal prison. Yet, he is an elector, in large part because Pennsylvania is one of only a handful of states that allow the candidates to hand-pick their electors.
I still reached out to him, but I received no response though I did from some other electors. Bob joined the other Pennsylvania electors in choosing Donald J. Trump as the next president of the United States. Perhaps it was too much to expect a man convicted of corruption to show any outrage at the corruption shown by the candidate who appointed him to the office he now holds.
While I have enjoyed giving, receiving and consuming Asher’s Chocolates in the past, I will give up on Asher’s chocolates because from here on out. I think they’d leave a bitter taste in my mouth.
You can do your bit by also boycotting Asher’s company, and if you’d like to know who else is a Trump-related business, you can download the Boycott Trump App for your iPhone.