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Daily Pilot: Kudos to the Rohrabacher camp’s win

Feb 28, 2009

Washington, Feb 28, 2009 - This is how Washington often works:

A member of Congress makes a big stink about some pet issue to whip up their constituents. This is especially true in the House of Representatives because with two-year terms they’re perpetually running for re-election. Usually, when research is done a staffer is sent to do the grunt work the politician takes credit for. Then, when the TV news cameras show up for the moment of glory, guess who’s elbowing the staff out of the way to flex their muscles?

For the record, that’s a rhetorical question, folks.

But a funny thing happened when it came to the saga of former Border Patrol agents Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean.

Tara Setmayer had just started working for Rep. Dana Rohrabacher when she heard about the plight of the agents convicted of shooting a drug smuggler.

At first, it became a big cause for law-and-order conservatives like Setmayer, but later it became a concern of even liberals who thought the pair received unjustly long prison sentences. Ramos was ordered to serve 11 years and Compean 12 years.

So Setmayer raised the issue with her boss and he essentially said, “Go for it. Do what you can to help.”

So she did. For 2 1/2 years. She went to prison to check on Ramos after a beat-down by fellow inmates. And she comforted him when he was subsequently put in solitary confinement “for his own protection” just like the other inmates who were there to be punished.

Rohrabacher held rallies, spoke out on their behalf and generally hectored President Bush to pardon them.

But it didn’t help. Bush wouldn’t budge. And the pair lost in appellate court.

Then, in the final days of the administration, Setmayer had an idea: Stop pushing for a pardon. Ask the president for a commutation of the sentence.

And she helped organize a news conference on Capitol Hill with Rohrabacher and several of his colleagues to plead with the president to show mercy.

They cleverly reminded the president that even Ramos’ and Compean’s prosecutor, Texas U.S. Atty. Johnny Sutton, the president’s friend, agreed the prison sentences were too long.

On his last official day in office, Bush commuted their sentences.

Still, they kept up the pressure on the Bureau of Prisons to cut through their usual bureaucracy and let them go early.

Again, they won the day as they were released about a month early.

So who was there to greet “Nacho” Ramos when he walked out of prison? Setmayer, not Rohrabacher.

It’s not every day that a politician lets his staff take the credit when it’s due as it is in this case.

For that alone, we applaud you, congressman.

Oh, and congratulations on your office’s accomplishment.

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