If she could find all the addresses, it would cost $2,974.53 just for the stamps for Linda Schrenko to mail notes of apology to all the Columbia County voters who cast ballots for her in the Aug. 20, 2002 Republican primary.
She'll have the next eight years to work on them.
After sentencing Schrenko to prison, Federal Judge Clarence Cooper ordered Schrenko on Wednesday to pay $414,887.50 in restitution for her part in a scheme to funnel federal education money into that primary campaign for governor.
That means while Schrenko will have the time to write, she probably won't have much money left over for postage stamps when she's eventually sent to a minimum-security women's prison.
If the mood strikes her, however, we'll suspend a rule and give her a break.
She can write just one letter of apology to everyone, and we'll print it.
Normally, newspapers don't publish letters from prison inmates. We get them every now and then. They usually lay out a litany of wrongs that society, or the prison, or a judge, or the sheriff have committed against the innocent felon, whose only fault was being poor, or ignorant, or in the wrong place at the wrong time. After a few moments of amusement, into the trash they go.
But not Schrenko's. If she'll send a letter apologizing for ripping off taxpayers and disappointing everyone who wrongly placed their trust in her, we'll be happy to print it.
Hopefully, at least some of those 7,627 Columbia Countians who gave her their vote will find it more fulfilling than Schrenko's single-sentence apology uttered upon exiting the federal courthouse in Atlanta.
A reporter asked her what she had to say to supporters, and she responded, "Obviously, I'm sorry. That's all I can say."
It wasn't. She later had a few words of apology on local TV, too - mostly sounding like "I'm sorry I ever got into politics."
Meanwhile, sentencing still awaits for some of the minor minions in the scheme to funnel federal funds to Schrenko's 2002 Republican primary campaign, including Miller Finley and Richard Leonard, and for major co-conspirators Merle Temple and Stephen Botes.
Botes is a South African businessman who helped provide cover for the scheme. The rest were involved with the state Department of Education or the campaign, or both. Finley, Leonard and Temple, like Schrenko, are Columbia County residents.
It's politicians and hangers-on like these who help generate the cynicism that causes voters to devalue their own citizenship by failing to exercise it.
For all of them, and all of us, this sordid case should come to closure by the end of August when the final sentences are pronounced. Apologies from the whole bunch should be part of those sentences - if not in letters to all those 7,627 betrayed voters, then at least by making each of them write, "I will not steal money from little kids" 7,627 times on a chalkboard.
Choose a ballot
Tuesday's primaries are a tough choice for local Democrats. They would love to cast a ballot in the gubernatorial primary between Cathy Cox and Mark Taylor. But if they do, they can't vote in the race for county commission chairman. That race appears only on the Republican ballot because no Democrat filed to run for the post.
Columbia County Democrats who want a say in the chairmanship, then, will have to pick up a Republican ballot. They may not be able to help out Cox or Taylor, but they'll be able to cast a few mischief-making votes on the GOP side.
In any event, for those of you who have already voted absentee or by early voting, good for you. For those who haven't, don't forget to vote on Tuesday. If you're undecided on a race, write my name in.
(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail comments to firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 706-863-6165, extension 106.)
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