FEBRUARY 19, 2009
A series of corruption scandals involving high-profile Democrats—several tied to the Obama Administration—in the last few months has steered the party into a deepening ethics sinkhole not long ago occupied by Republicans.
The “culture of corruption” title that Democrats appropriately crowned Republicans with before taking over Washington has come back to haunt the donkey party in a big way. In a very short period of time, Democrats have gained substantial ground in earning back the disgraceful honor.
The latest Democratic scandal broke just a few days ago when former Illinois Comptroller Roland Burris contradicted his own sworn affidavit by admitting he tried to raise cash for the criminally indicted and impeached governor (Rod Blagojevich) who picked him to replace Obama in the Senate. Pointing out that Burris has no credibility, the state’s largest newspaper called for his resignation this week.
Burris is hardly Democrats’ only problem. His pal Blagojevich was arrested and charged in early December for operating a massive bribery scheme in which he sold the influence of his office, lucrative state jobs and contracts to the highest bidders. Federal prosecutors say he also tried to sell Obama’s vacated Senate seat.
Last week federal agents raided a defense lobbying firm connected to Pennsylvania Representative John Murtha, a notoriously corrupt politician who chairs the Defense Appropriations subcommittee. Founded by Murtha’s aide, the raided Virginia firm specializes in getting its clients hundreds of millions of dollars in federal earmarks steered by none other than Murtha. Many of the earmark recipients donate hefty sums to the congressman’s campaign coffers.
Then there’s the scandal-plagued chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, New York Representative Charles Rangel, who has repeatedly used his office to raise money from corporations with business before him, concealed thousands of dollars in rental income and illegally accepted multiple rent control apartments in his district. The House Ethics Committee is supposedly investigating the Harlem lawmaker who has served in Congress for more than three decades.
Scandals involving the Obama Administration include prominent cabinet picks, some confirmed and others who withdrew amid intense public scrutiny of their wrongdoings. Former Senate majority leader Tom Daschle dropped his bid to be Health Secretary after being exposed for failing to pay tens of thousands of dollars in taxes over the years and New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson dropped out as Commerce Secretary amid a grand jury investigation into his out-of-state political donors getting a lucrative state contract.
Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner was confirmed even though he knowingly hired an illegal immigrant and failed to pay tens of thousands of dollars in taxes on his lucrative salary. The nation’s new Deputy Defense Secretary (William Lynn) was a major defense industry lobbyist before becoming the Pentagon’s second-in-command, a violation of Obama’s “strict ethics rules” banning lobbyists from his administration.
These incidents indicate that corruption, which regularly shifts between both parties, is gaining momentum among Democrats although the massive Republican bribery scandal involving jailed lobbyist Jack Abramoff remains a tough act to follow.
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