By James M. Perry
Richard Nixon was crushed by Watergate. Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey is still trying to wiggle out of Bridgegate. And now New Hampshire State Rep. David Campbell is caught up in a web of scandal called Duckgate.
Back in December, Mr. Campbell was cruising through the parking lot of the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Nashua in his 5-series BMW when he ran over and killed five or six ducklings.
It's got everything, one Granite State observer said, "a hit and run murder, a cover-up, accusations of drunk driving, and even a somber resignation." It's almost as big a story as the state's efforts to legalize marijuana.
Let's set the scene here. The Crowne Plaza seems to have a small pond in which ducks like to gather. It's something of an attraction, like the daily parade of the ducks at the Peabody Hotel in Memphis. They've been waddling down a red carpet there every day at 11 a.m.
Duckgate began to unfold about 10 p.m.
An eyewitness, an ex-Marine, was feeding the ducks and saw the whole thing. "The ducks should have moved," Rep. Campbell said, and then roared off into the night. Mr. Campbell, a Democrat, didn't help his cause much in an interview with the Nashua Telegraph. "I hit some ducks," he said. "Some people were feeding ducks on the driveway in front of the Crowne Plaza at 10 o'clock
at night and they didn't move, and I hit some ducks."
The scandal occurred when Nashua Police Commissioner Tom Pappas called his municipal police department, told the cops Campbell was a friend and asked if the so-called duck murderer could come into headquarters the next day. The timing was critical, the local TV station reported, because there were suspicions Rep. Campbell had been drinking. Commissioner Pappas was so upset by all the ruckus that he resigned.
Ducks are important in New Hampshire. People hunt them in season with guns. Killing them with BMWs and then not even feeling contrite about it just isn't done.
Lots of people in and around Nashua in southern New Hampshire come from Massachusetts. They probably are familiar with a bronze statue in Boston Public Garden of a mother duck and her eight little ducklings, based on the children's book, Make Way for Ducklings, by Robert McCloskey. Children love the statue. Kids even remember their names -- Jack, Kack, Lack, Mack, Nack, Oack, Pack, and, of course, Quack.
State representatives in New Hampshire, on the other hand, don't count for much. There are 400 of them, making them, when you add the state's 24 senators, the largest legislature in the United States and, it is said, the fourth largest in the English-speaking world. They surely must be the lowest paid; they make a paltry $100 a year (plus mileage). Campbell pleaded no contest in Circuit Court and was fined $620 for killing five mallard ducks.
The Atlantic magazine web site has been on top of the story from the start. It notes that Campbell is chair of the house's Public Works and Highways Committee.
James M. Perry, a prominent veteran political reporter, is contributing regular observations for post-gazette.com Mr. Perry was the chief political correspondent of the Wall Street Journal until his retirement. Prior to that, he covered national politics for the Dow Jones weekly, The National Observer.