In a perfect legal system, the federal investigation of the Donovan for Congress campaign would be neatly wrapped up in time for Fifth District Democrats to cast their ballots for or against Christopher Donovan in the Aug. 14 primary.
But justice - and the voters - may not even be served in time for the November election and if House Speaker Donovan is still in the race, his fate will have to be decided on what the district's voters know or think they know.
They will have to determine on their own if Mr. Donovan was part of the bribe conspiracy or if he was unaware of what was going on in his own campaign and neither conclusion would be a plus for his candidacy. Or they may decide they like him anyway, which is the position of the state AFL-CIO and most of its member unions.
This situation may not be perfectly fair to Mr. Donovan or the voters, but that's democracy for you.
In the meantime, we have Republican Senate leader John McKinney calling for a legislative inquiry into what he sees as an "abuse of power and trust." He first asked for such an inquiry after the late May arrest and indictment of Mr. Donovan's fund raiser in an alleged scheme to exchange campaign contributions for killing a bill that would have imposed a new tax on roll-your-own cigarette outlets. Since then, there have been seven more arrests.
Such an inquiry at this time would be premature, as Democratic legislative leaders were quick to point out, but we didn't hear Mr. McKinney specify a time frame. We are certain he wouldn't want a legislative committee complicating the federal, criminal investigation but there will be plenty of time afterwards for a legislative probe.
And speaking of premature, how about Democratic Majority Leader Brendan Sharkey's hasty conclusion that there was no indication "our state legislative process was compromised by any violation of federal campaign laws" in the scandal? It surely looked as if several people were giving compromise of the legislative process a real workout.
If Mr. Sharkey, who is Mr. Donovan's heir apparent as speaker, doesn't see anything compromising in, for one example, the messages sent on the progress of the tobacco bill from a Donovan legislative aide to Joshua Nassi, the manager of the Donovan campaign, the Democrats may want to look for a different speaker.
We also wonder why Mr. Sharkey isn't curious about the identity of that aide or about six other bills Mr. Nassi had been interested in, according to evidence released thus far. Mr. Nassi was fired after the May arrest of the Donovan finance director and indicted in July.
Such an inquiry should, as Mr. McKinney suggests, be conducted by an equal number of highly regarded Democratic and Republican House and Senate members, whose first order of business would be the employment of a special counsel of equally high repute with the power to issue subpoenas.
One outcome of an investigation we'd like to see would be a rule that legislators running for higher office would have to step down from any leadership position they might hold. Since most legislators collect extra pay for real or phony leadership titles, that would involve just about all of them. But as we noted earlier, that's democracy for you.