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'The Culture of Corruption,' Cont'd

Flash back to this time two years ago, and the news was thick with allegations by Democrats that Republicans were practicing "the culture of corruption" on Capitol Hill. The charge ended up being a key plank in Democrats' national campaign efforts in 2006, and it paid off, as corruption allegations -- particularly the Mark Foley scandal -- played what most analysts agree was a key role in the GOP's drubbing that November.

In the wake of Tuesday's news that Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) has been indicted, it's worth asking whether history is about to repeat itself. Will Democrats again make corruption a major theme of their campaign efforts in 2008? And will it work again? As to the first question, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) was asked about it yesterday, and he said: "I expect the campaign themes of '06 will be continued."

The second question is tougher to answer. The 109th Congress, after all, included the Foley House page scandal as well as the indictment and resignation of Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Texas), the resignation and imprisonment of Rep. Duke Cunningham (R-Calif.), the indictment and resignation (the imprisonment came in 2007) of Rep. Bob Ney (R-Ohio) and federal investigations into several other Republican members. On the Democratic side of the ledger, Rep. William Jefferson (D-La.) saw his homes and offices raided by the FBI as part of a bribery investigation.

So what is the Hill Corrupt-o-Meter (no, it doesn't exist, but it should) showing for the 110th Congress? Let's recap the last 18 months:

June 2007: Jefferson is indicted on 16 federal counts including bribery, racketeering and money laundering. He is currently awaiting trial.

July 2007: Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) admits to "a very serious sin in my past." He doesn't specify, but the reference appears to be to the fact that he appeared in the phone records of the so-called D.C. Madam, who later alleged that Vitter was indeed a client of her service. Vitter hasn't faced any criminal charges as a result of this revelation, and the Senate Ethics Committee dismissed a complaint against him because his alleged inappropriate behavior occurred before he was a member of the Senate.

August 2007: It is revealed that in June 2007, Sen. Larry Craig (R-Idaho) was arrested during a sex sting in a Minneapolis airport bathroom. Craig eventually pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct charges, though he later proclaims his innocence and tries unsuccessfully to have his plea thrown out. After pressure from GOP leaders, Craig announces he will not run for reelection.

August 2007:
Rep. Bob Filner (D-Calif.) is charged with misdemeanor assault and battery for allegedly pushing an airline employee at Dulles Airport. He eventually cuts a deal with prosecutors in which he does not admit guilt but has to pay a small fine.

September 2007:
Rep. Jerry Weller (R-Ill.) announces he won't run for reelection, just days after the Chicago Tribune raised questions about the lawmaker's Nicaraguan land deals.

January 2008:
Rep. John Doolittle (R-Calif.) announces he will not run for reelection amid an ongoing federal probe into his and his wife's connections to the Jack Abramoff scandal. Republican leaders, who were worried that they would lose his seat and pushed him to quit, breathe a sigh of relief.

February 2008: Rep. Rick Renzi (R-Ariz.) is indicted by a federal grand jury on 35 counts, mostly related to federal land exchanges. He had already said he would run for reelection this year, and is now awaiting trial.

April 2008: Sen. Pete Domenici (R-N.M.), who has already announced that he would retire at the end of the year, is admonished by the Senate Ethics Committee for having called the U.S. Attorney in New Mexico to ask about the status of a pending corruption investigation.

May 2008: Rep. Vito Fossella (R-N.Y.) is arrested for driving drunk in Alexandria, Va. It's soon revealed that he had been going to visit his mistress, with whom he had fathered a child. After a few weeks, he announces he will retire at the end of the year. He is awaiting trial.

July 2008: In the course of a week, Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) faces two different sets of ethical questions. One concerns his use of four rent-controlled apartments in New York City, and the other relates to an educational center bearing his name for which he actively raised money, using congressional stationery to set up meetings with donors. In an unusual move, Rangel asks the House ethics committee to investigate whether he violated the chamber's rules in either case.

July 2008: Stevens is indicted for allegedly making false statements on his financial disclosure reports regarding gifts he got from oil services firm Veco Corp. and its CEO. Stevens vows to fight the charges and says he will still run for re-election.

Notice any patterns here? One is that, as in the 109th Congress, there are wrongdoers on both sides of the aisle, but so far definitely more on the GOP side. The other is that, more so than in the 2006 cycle, many of the Republicans facing charges or allegations are planning to retire, with some of them receiving a quick push out the door from their leadership. Stevens, so far, still seems ready to stick around and fight and has not yet gotten a definitive shove from his party.

Will taking quick action against troubled members pay dividends for Republican leaders in November? Maybe so, but they'd obviously be better off not having to deal with some ethical allegation or another nearly every month. And there are other members not mentioned above, like Reps. Jerry Lewis (R-Calif.), Tom Feeney (R-Fla.), and Don Young (R-Alaska) who appear to be the subject of ongoing federal investigations (as does Rep. Alan Mollohan (D-W.Va.).

How far will Democrats go in trying to capitalize on this campaign theme again? Democrats appear to have the wind at their backs and look poised to pick up seats in both chambers -- the only question being how many. Given that environment, the party may not feel the need to spend too much of their time or resources reminding the public of all the ethical problems on the other side of the aisle. The corruption issue looks more likely to really have an impact in a handful of individual races, like Stevens', than across the board. But it's unfortunate for the GOP -- which as the minority is trying to run on the importance of "change" on Capitol Hill -- that when it comes to getting into ethics trouble, it doesn't seem like much has changed at all.

UPDATE 10:30 AM: Sometimes it can be hard to keep up with all these scandals. Capitol Briefing should have included this prime example in the chronology above:

June 2008: Sens. Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.) and Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) are reported to have received favorable mortgage terms from Countrywide Financial Corp. as part of a "Friends of Angelo" program, a VIP arrangement set up by CEO Angelo Mozilo. Both senators deny any wrongdoing and say that they didn't know they had received special breaks on their mortgages. The Senate Ethics Committee is currently investigating the matter.

By Ben Pershing  |  July 31, 2008; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  2008 Campaign , Ethics and Rules  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: The Politics of Adjournment
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If the Democrats make "corruption" an issue, they will be even more of a laughingstock than they already have become this year. The entire Primary season was a textbook corruption case. From busing non-residents into states to vote in caucuses to awarding Michigan delegates from Clinton to Obama who took himself off the ballot. The Obama/Axelrod campaign paid off Superdelegates to support him despite their constituents' voting for Clinton. There is no more corrupt cesspool in American politics than the Chicago mob machine which has now been integrated into both the Obama campaign and the DNC which moved its operations to the Chicago cesspool.

Watch this video if you want the real story. Do your research. I really do hope they try to make corruption an issue. It will come right back at them.

Posted by: stop the fraud | July 31, 2008 9:55 AM | Report abuse

Tom Feeney (Republican, Florida) is accused of election fraud by Clint Curtis (computer programmer). But look at the Florida House of Representatives and Florida State Senate. They are all in cahoots with Florida's ruler, Congressman Mark Foley (Republican, Florida). How long is it? It extends all the way down into the dankness of the local and elite level. Some call them the elite. Bush calls them his base.

Posted by: Singing Senator | July 31, 2008 10:18 AM | Report abuse

First to Mr. Pershing: The Hill corrupt-ometer does exist and it is you. I'm sure you know this and were just being humble in your commentary. Please feel free, though, to take that idea and run with it; you could have worse directives.

To the coward previously known as "stop the fraud": please take your own advice.

Posted by: Patrick Huss | July 31, 2008 10:21 AM | Report abuse

There are other kinds of corruption.

Please somebody
explain the Social Security Trust Fund before the election. Thanks

Posted by: turtle | July 31, 2008 10:51 AM | Report abuse

'The Culture of Corruption' more like 'The culture of incompetence'!!!! A pox on both parties.

Posted by: RedRat | July 31, 2008 1:58 PM | Report abuse

"Suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself."

- Mark Twain, a Biography

Posted by: True, True | July 31, 2008 2:49 PM | Report abuse

Both parties in Washington are up to their ears in corruption. The two parties run a mutual admiration society in private, in spite of their protests against each other in public. Between supporting each others ear marks and taking money from lobbyist for favors, there is a serious elephant in the halls of congress called corruption

Posted by: Earl Jones | July 31, 2008 3:34 PM | Report abuse

See the January, 2008 news article, "The Greedy Gates Immigration Gambit" to understand the connection between the controversial H-1B visa program, Microsoft Corporation, and a Microsoft lawyer-lobbyist named Jack Abramoff.

Keep tuned for more developments!

Posted by: Dr. Gene Nelson | July 31, 2008 6:07 PM | Report abuse

How about Hillary Clinton voting for the Iraq War, and campaigning to extend the US security umbrella to the UAE while she & her husband received millions from a partnership (Yucaipa) with the Emir of Dubai and reporting this as ">$1,000" on her disclosure forms?

Posted by: Martha | July 31, 2008 6:19 PM | Report abuse

Can you blame Washington corruption - Congress holds the purse strings to the richest country in the World. They act like kids in a candy store -
We need a new way of managing our affairs - instead of Federal taxes - we should send it to states who can distribute social security, healthcare and infrastructure projects within the states. The Federal Govt would only be responsible for defense and some major overview items.
Just a thought!
This way re-election committees would not be so full of lobbyist money donors.

Posted by: wendynyc | July 31, 2008 8:42 PM | Report abuse

Well I guess if the dems wanted to make an issue of it, they'd be in good shape to do so. The occasional misdemeanor hardly stacks up against all the indictments the republicans have stacked up. I think it would be a good thing for two reasons. First, I think when we have crooks in congress that they should be outed in the loudest possible way and a general election is loud in a national way. And second, the dems could be very much more effective if they attain a fillibuster breaking majority in the Senate and I'm all for that. The republicans have been blocking majority votes on important legislation for the past two years by using the fillibuster for every bill. If we're going to clean up the mess left by Bush, it would work a whole lot better if the fillibuster is off the board. So, go get 'em. Throw the bums out!

Posted by: karela | July 31, 2008 11:06 PM | Report abuse

Both parties are filled with criminal and unethecal practices.Voters must know more about whom they vote for. The public pays too little attention to whom they vote for.

Posted by: Albert Hatter | July 31, 2008 11:19 PM | Report abuse

The republicans came to a fork in the road several years ago and went both ways while in lock step with Bush. It's to bad for the honest ones but they remained loyal to Bush and forsaking our country! The party came first before country!

Posted by: jackmack74 | July 31, 2008 11:42 PM | Report abuse

The GOP are the masters of corruption. Just ask DeLay.

Posted by: Jack Straw | August 1, 2008 6:44 AM | Report abuse

What about the mortgague Obama received? Is this not questionable or since he is a minority all is forgiven.

Posted by: Poincelot | August 1, 2008 1:43 PM | Report abuse

Have the Democrats nominated a closet Muslim running for the presidency of the United States, trained from birth to be the Dalai Lama of the Muslim faith, since many questions remain regarding Obama's real beliefs and associates plus his wifes radical beliefs regarding white people?

Posted by: Pericles | August 1, 2008 2:01 PM | Report abuse

Bottom Line: If you are on the In-List of whatever organization (etc), you can get away with anything (probably including murder) as long as your org. is fine and in power. Of course, you do have to be Very Sneaky in that the opposition doesn't know about it or your actions can not be trace to your org. Oh yea, the organization has the right to disown you and claim no knowledge or ties at any time if things get messy.
This is not just a Culture, but a whole History of the World.
You should know yourself that VERY FEW truely Honorable or Altruistic people exist in this world.
Those VERY FEW are Neither Rich Nor Powerful and will always be that way.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 1, 2008 2:07 PM | Report abuse

think somebody should ask "separation of powers" "signing statements" "secret laws governing secret agencies"- rush limbaugh why tom delay left the house of representatives?

Posted by: jeff | August 1, 2008 6:41 PM | Report abuse

You think McCain or Obama are some kind of virgins. McCains been in the Senate a long time.

Obama is the from the absolutely and constantly most corrupt political machine run city for the almost the last 90 years. Only the Tamany hall machine in New York City early in the 20th century compares.

Chicago is the utmost in corrupt machine politics. The city does run better than most of the large ones. That's why the mob, the politicians and the entire city government stays in power all the time.

Corrupt but competent usually wins over incompetence.

Its why the Mafia holds much sway in Italy,which has had about 60 differnet governments since World War II. Someone has to run the place.

Its also why they have a pleasant life by and large, although many work an under the table second job to be able to afford a little something more to own than the basics. They are on average probably much happier than Americans, because they don't rely on making moneey off of mass marketing and mass consumption like we do. A small house, a good bottle of wine, and a good dinner suffice.

People there live without everything.

Americans just get envious if somebody else has something they don't.

I've never really figured it out.

Its really our culture that sucks. Jealousy, greed, success at any cost? In Asia They probably pay at least $ for gas (we whine, cry and get angry) Gotta have that bigg house, gotta have that car, gotta take cruises, gotta have everything.

Their Wealthy people, like their President, are flambouyant and drive Ferrari's. Who cares? Is that important in life? To Americans, the society of greed and jealousy largely due to this sick Hollywood movies since the 1920's (I can see people in the dustbowl, watching the black and white films of Busby Berkeley showing these huge mansions with Ethel Merman Swimming with 20 other gals in syncronization.

Maybe just Roman Empire to Renaissance to fascism to modern Italy has covered a long period. Life is for living. You don't need all that crap, especially ipods and video games and other commercial trash.

No wonder Americans are held in contempt many places. I've felt it with some Asian residents. We have so much, but its never enough.

Americans couldn't stand it. Why do politicians of all stripes always ride in gas guzzling huge limosines?

Posted by: KRItt | August 2, 2008 1:47 AM | Report abuse

A comment about Social Security. From its beginning, it was a pay as you go program. The current generation supported their parent's generation. Its purpose was to keep the elderly from living on the street (or in a barn on someone elses property if they didn't have enough or any support from their off spring.) That's its purpose. Its not meant to be a substantial retirement program. Now people buy, buy, buy and worry it about it later. Unfortunately, the economy has become dependent on consumer spending. The baby boomers are a huge bubble on the population distribution. Hence the number of 'bubbles' like stocks in the 1990's. So to afford their retirement the government thought it should stockpile the Social Security Trust fund. Unfortunately, since the 1950's, the continuous wars of some for another, hot or cold, and the federal government takeover of everything in the name of economic equality, and mass spending on ways to do it, Congress decided to borrow every cent out of Social Security. Medicare in 1965, when it was created, probably never projected the enormous but expensive development of medicne and medical equipment we have today.(Lawyers were also scarce) In the mid 1930's FDR littered the impoverished South with military bases plus the building of dams, roads and an array of other government projects largely led by the Army Corp. of Engineers. That in the 1930's, massive war spending in 1939-1945, and the continuous growth of military and social programs and the numerous wars since WWII has gotten more wealthy along with technology, but has caused a change in America that is not sustainable. Social Security is still pretty similar to what it was, without too much change other than increasing benefits with the ever-inflating dollar. The big change in society however, changes the needs of the programs. Social programs in Europe, much more substantial are facing much the problems we are.

Posted by: KRitt | August 2, 2008 2:15 AM | Report abuse

Where on the internet can a person find a list of Senators & Representives that are up for reelection ?

Posted by: Gilbert E. Wyatt | August 3, 2008 9:14 PM | Report abuse

Corporate Corruption is NADER's THEME and he is accusing both parties of that, unequivocably, and that unprovoked warfare in the middle east is a WAR RACKET for profiteers, and upsetting the proper view of the President and our U.S. Constitution where the President DOES NOT HAVE ANY AUTHORITY to declare war, ONLY Congress, 535 people, with the presumption that 535 are aware of the Nation's Mandate, peace is wanted and prosperity AT A MAJORITY LEVEL. Impeachment is due, and the two parties are corrupt.

I picked up a ballot access validated petition today at Boston City Hall at the Elections Commission, and some other citizens asked, "how is Nader doing?" [re ballot access] - I answered, "looking good" we are still getting the validated signatures, but the ratio is definitely good, and if all were reasonably delivered on time (I was unable to deliver a few on time), we will be on the ballot in MA and the Democrats will have an HONEST DEMOCRATIC FIGHT on their hands, as to who will be the WINNER TAKE ALL in November, since 50% are Independents in MA and only 36.6% are Democrats and 12.12% Republicans.

I am a registered Independent, and am NOT a Democrat or a Republican and am for everything Nader stands for. For those who do not know, check the site, and to see a quick overview of what to expect (public interest at an accomplished level meriting the encyclopedia as a legendary track noted, World Book or Who's Who are handy references for proper information as to Nader and his proper legal standing for the people and the government and the Presidential Office duties and UPHOLDING proper view of Democracy. He has said, "Democracy requires active citizen action daily."

Looking Good for Nader against the Corruption, legendary still happening, the new slang of action, "happening!"

Posted by: elizabeth | August 6, 2008 4:54 PM | Report abuse

This corruption is only the tip of the iceberg. For corruption related to continuing harm to Americans, go to

Posted by: Rodney Stich | August 17, 2008 5:18 PM | Report abuse

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