Politico article baselessly suggested "culture of corruption" is bipartisan


In a June 5 article on the political implications of the June 4 corruption-related indictment of Rep. William Jefferson (D-LA), The Politico asserted that freshmen House Democrats who "campaigned against a 'Republican culture of corruption' and promised to clean up Congress once elected" must now "dispel the notion that little has changed in Washington." Yet, in suggesting that due to the Jefferson indictment, the "culture of corruption" is a bipartisan problem, The Politico failed to report the extent to which current and former Republican members of Congress have been convicted or indicted or are reportedly under investigation, or the fact that the House under Democratic control has passed several ethics reforms.

From the article by Politico staff writers Josephine Hearn and Patrick O'Connor, headlined "Copycats: The GOP Scandal Strategy":

Taking a page from the Democrats' playbook, Republicans hope to make vulnerable Democrats regret every association they ever had with Rep. William Jefferson (D-La.), indicted Monday on corruption charges.


Many of the Democrats' 41 new freshmen campaigned against a "Republican culture of corruption" and promised to clean up Congress once elected. But nearly six months into the new Congress, one of their own faces some of the most serious charges ever filed against a sitting lawmaker.

Now, the freshmen and other vulnerable Democrats must dispel the notion that little has changed in Washington, even though many of Jefferson's alleged crimes occurred long before the freshmen declared their campaigns for Congress.

The Politico made no mention of the fact that at least nine Republican members of Congress and Bush administration officials -- including former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (TX) -- have been indicted or pleaded guilty to criminal charges, and that the "culture of corruption" charge stemmed from two Republican scandals relating to disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff and convicted former Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-CA). The article described DeLay simply as "scandal-plagued" and did not note that he is currently under indictment for violating Texas state election laws (nor that he is a Politico contributor). The article noted that Rep. Zack Space (D-OH) "succeeded convicted former Rep. Bob Ney (R-Ohio)" but failed to note that Ney was convicted after pleading guilty to accepting bribes from Abramoff.

The Republican lawmakers and members of the Bush administration who have recently been indicted or convicted of various crimes include:

  • Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-CA), who on November 28, 2005 pleaded guilty to taking bribes from defense contractor Mitchell Wade. Cunningham was ultimately sentenced to over eight years in prison, the longest term handed down to a former member of Congress.
  • A former DeLay aide, Tony Rudy, pleaded guilty in connection with the Abramoff scandal, while another former aide, Michael Scanlon, pleaded guilty to conspiring with Abramoff to bribe public officials.
  • Former White House procurement official David H. Safavian was convicted in June 2006 of lying and obstructing justice in the Abramoff investigation.
  • Former vice presidential chief of staff I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby was convicted in March 2006 of obstructing justice and making false statements. On June 5, he was sentenced to 30 months in prison and ordered to pay a $250,000 fine.
  • Former Deputy Secretary of the Interior J. Steven Griles pleaded guilty in March 2007 to obstructing justice. As a March 23 Associated Press article reported, Griles "admitt[ed] in a plea agreement that he lied in testimony before the Senate Indian Affairs Committee on Nov. 2, 2005, and during an earlier deposition with the panel's investigators on October 20, 2005."
  • Former CIA executive director Kyle "Dusty" Foggo was charged by federal prosecutors in San Diego with improperly trying to steer a $132 million contract to defense contractor Brent Wilkes.
  • Former FDA commissioner Lester Crawford pleaded guilty to charges of "conflict of interest and false reporting of information about stocks he owned in food, beverage and medical device companies he was in charge of regulating," according to an October 17, 2006, Associated Press report. "Beginning in 2002," the AP report stated, "Crawford filed seven incorrect financial reports with a government ethics office and Congress, leading to the charges."
  • Former Federal Housing Finance Board chairman John T. Korsmo "pleaded guilty to one count of making false statements to the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, which oversees the Finance Board, and the Inspector General for the Finance Board."

In addition, several current and former Republican congressmen and senators are reportedly under investigation over corruption allegations. For example:

  • Rep. John T. Doolittle (CA) is reportedly under investigation by the FBI in connection to his dealings with Abramoff.
  • Rep. Jerry Lewis (CA) is reportedly under investigation in connection with the Cunningham scandal, and will reportedly not seek re-election. According to a January 31 article in The Hill, Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) said in an interview that "he believes Lewis is innocent until proven guilty, and that prevented him from toppling him from the top GOP spot on the [House Appropriations Committee]."
  • Rep. Gary Miller (CA) is reportedly under investigation for two land deals and related taxes, although he says FBI agents have not contacted him.
  • Rep. Rick Renzi (AZ) is reportedly the subject of a preliminary investigation into whether he pressured several landowners to buy land from a business partner.
  • Former Sen. Conrad Burns (MT) is reportedly under investigation in the Abramoff investigation.
  • Former Rep. Curt Weldon (PA) is being investigated over allegations that "he used his influence to obtain lobbying and consulting contracts for his daughter," the Associated Press reported on October 14, 2006.

In addition, as The Washington Post reported on March 8, Sen. Pete V. Domenici (R-NM) is the subject of a preliminary Senate ethics investigation into a phone call he made to then-U.S. Attorney David Iglesias before the 2006 elections. According to an April 12 Post article, "[B]ecause the House ethics committee keeps its probes secret, it is unclear whether the lower chamber is looking into the similar allegations concerning Rep. Heather Wilson (R-N.M.), a close ally of Domenici." Domenici and Wilson allegedly pressured Iglesias to indict a local Democratic official on corruption charges before the elections. Wilson eventually won her tight race for re-election.

By contrast, one Democrat, Rep. Alan Mollohan (WV), is reportedly the subject of an FBI investigation.

Moreover, despite suggesting that freshmen and other "vulnerable" House Democrats "must dispel the notion that little has changed in Washington," the Politico article made no mention of the ethics legislation and rule changes that have already passed the House in 2007. The Post reported on May 24:

Prodded by Democratic leaders and by freshmen elected partly on promises to clean up Washington, the House approved new ethics legislation yesterday that would penalize lawmakers who receive a wide range of favors from special interests, and would require lobbyists to disclose the campaign contributions they collect and deliver to lawmakers.

Party leaders and new lawmakers worked until the day before the vote to sway some longtime members who had balked at the proposals. It took weeks of persuasion by Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and other key lawmakers to convince recalcitrant Democrats -- among them some members of the speaker's inner circle.

The new proposals, which in the end passed overwhelmingly, would expand the information available about how business is done on Capitol Hill and make it available online. They would provide expanded, more frequent and Internet-accessible reporting of lobbyist-paid contributions and sponsorships, and would for the first time impose prison terms for criminal rule-breakers. They would also require strict new disclosure of "bundled" campaign contributions that lobbyists collect and pass on to lawmakers' campaigns. Yesterday's legislation passed 396 to 22.


The House in January passed rules banning gifts, meals and travel from lobbyists. The rules also require sponsors of pet spending projects, known as earmarks, to identify themselves and certify that they have no financial interest in them.

A bill passed by the Senate in January includes similar bans, as well as reporting requirements for earmarks and bundled campaign contributions from lobbyists. The differences between the House and Senate bills must be resolved before a final measure is sent for the president's signature, probably before the August recess, Democratic leaders said.

Democratic leaders and some watchdog groups hailed yesterday's bill as the most sweeping ethics package since the post-Watergate era. Even so, it lost proposals such as disclosure of "grass-roots" communications campaigns orchestrated by lobbyists and an extension from one year to two of the time lawmakers must wait between leaving their jobs and lobbying former colleagues. Instead, the bill would require that lawmakers interviewing for private-sector jobs publicly recuse themselves from issues involving their prospective new industry.

Posted In
Government, Ethics
The Politico
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