Corruption Scandals Don’t Stop U.S. Reps from Winning Reelection
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Jesse Jackson Jr.’s victory in Illinois is the latest example of a congressman winning reelection under a dark cloud of corruption, illustrating that in some districts voters are blindly loyal to certain beloved candidates.
Jackson, son of the famed civil rights con man with the same name, is not the only U.S. House member to accomplish this feat. We’ve seen this around the country in the past few elections, most notably in Florida and Louisiana. We’ll get back to those after going through Jackson’s remarkable reelection this week despite being out half a year with a mysterious “mood disorder.”
A member of Judicial Watch’s Ten Most Wanted Corrupt Politicians list, Jackson has been under FBI scrutiny for participating in a political scandal involving President Obama’s old U.S. Senate seat. Details first surfaced during the 2010 federal corruption trial of impeached/convicted Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich. Jackson attended a 2008 meeting in which his top fundraiser (recently arrested in a separate bribery scheme) tried to buy him the Senate seat vacated when Obama got elected president, according to court testimony.
Jackson has been absent from Congress for months on medical leave and didn’t even bother campaigning. Furthermore, no one knows when he will return to work to represent his Chicago-area constituents in the “people’s house.” Yet he won by a landslide and delivered a statement from a Minnesota clinic where he has been receiving “intensive medical treatment” for his mood disorder. One mainstream news headline read: “Jesse Jackson Jr. Wins Reelection From Mayo Clinic.”
In Florida Alcee Hastings keeps getting reelected even though he is a rare species, one of only a handful of federal judges (they are appointed for life) to get impeached by Congress for his role in a bribery scandal. The veteran Democrat has also been embroiled in a number of scandals and has been ranked No. 1 out of 435 members of the U.S. House for nepotism because he abuses his position as a federal lawmaker to benefit himself and his family, mainly by paying his girlfriend and relatives salaries and fees.
Hastings is also a member of Judicial Watch’s corrupt politicians list. Last spring JW filed a lawsuit against Hastings on behalf of a female employee (Winsome Packer) who was repeatedly subjected to “unwelcome sexual advances, unwelcome touching” and retaliation when he chaired the United States Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe. The suit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, led to a House Ethics Committee probe as well. Yet the 72-year-old Hastings retained his seat by a wide margin this week.
We saw similar loyalty among voters several years ago in the case of William Jefferson, the immensely popular Louisiana congressman who earned the nickname “Dollar Bill” for stashing a $90,000 cash bribe in his freezer. He eventually got convicted of nearly a dozen corruption counts—including bribery, racketeering and money laundering—and was reelected after the feds issued the scathing indictment.
At least voters in districts on opposite sides of the country—one in Florida and the other in California—had the sense to doubt incumbents with shady records. In south Florida, Republican David Rivera, also a member of JW’s corrupt politicians list, became the only Miami-Dade congressional incumbent to lose his seat in recent memory, according to a local news report. Rivera has been embroiled in a campaign finance scandal and was recently spanked by the state’s ethics committee
In southern California, three-term Democrat Laura Richardson, also a member of JW’s corrupt pol list, was handily ousted by her fed up constituents. Richardson was recently reprimanded and fined by the House Ethics Committee for illegally forcing her congressional staff to do political campaign work. Previously she was in trouble for the foreclosure of three homes she used to get cash to finance her political campaign. Richardson abused her power to get one of the properties back after the bank had sold the foreclosed home to another party.