The Most Ethical Congress in History
Vol: 63 Issue: 11 Monday, December 11, 2006
New Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi made ethics a cornerstone of the Democratic national campaign. She promised that, as Speaker, she would preside over the most ethical Congress in history.
The GOP has had its share of scandals since assuming the majority in 1994. Representative Randy “Duke” Cunningham left the Congress when he was indicted (and later convicted) of bribery. The Jack Abramoff bribery scandal cost Ohio Republican Bob Ney his seat. When the Abramoff connections pointed in the direction of Tom DeLay, he promptly resigned his seat.
Abramoff’s bribery and corruption ring began to unravel when one of his largest lobbying clients, the Mississippi Choctaw Indian tribe, accused Abramoff of padding his fees to the tune of $15 million dollars.
The investigation revealed Abramoff diverted money meant for ‘inner-city’ kids to Jewish settlers living in the West Bank to help them fight off the Palestinian intifada.
According to the Abramoff entry at Wikipedia, ” Tribal donors were outraged by Abramoff’s diversion of funds to Israeli settlers. “‘This is almost like outer-limits bizarre,’ says Henry Buffalo, a lawyer for the Saginaw Chippewa Indians who contributed $25,000 to the Capital Athletic Foundation at Abramoff’s urging. ‘The tribe would never have given money for this.'”
As it turned out, some of the money diverted was used for the “purchases of camouflage suits, sniper scopes, night-vision binoculars, a thermal imager and other material described in foundation records as ‘security’ equipment” destined for Israel.
Since Abramoff was a Republican, so were the majority of the names in his Congressional ‘favors’ list. When the scandal first broke, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid coined the phrase, “Republican culture of corruption”.
It was clear that Abramoff would figure prominently in the upcoming Democratic electoral strategy.
Until Abramoff’s trail led to Harry Reid’s doorstep. Reid had ‘requested’ a $30,000 ‘contribution’ from Abramoff in return for helping Abramoff’s clients with a little matter involving Indian casinos.
The plan to unseat the GOP on the weight of the Abramoff scandal was quietly shelved. But then along came Mark Foley.
The Foley Scandal was like a gift from heaven to the Democrats — it gave them an honest-to-goodness scandal with another Republican at its center. ABC News reported that Foley had sent sexually explicit email messages from his personal AOL account to a male former Congressional page.
After being confronted with the email messages, Foley resigned from Congress. Within hours, rumors that the page was underage turned the story from a homosexual sex scandal to a homosexual pedophile story.
By the time the page was identified and it was determined that he was 18 at the time of the email exchange, the damage was done. ABC News never retracted the ‘underage page’ story.
The Democrats had their uniquely Republican scandal. A gay Republican making out with a Congressional page. It couldn’t blow back in the Democrats’ face, either. The Democrats were immunized by the Barney Frank page scandal, during which, a gay Democrat ran a male prostitution service employing under-age Congressional pages — out of his Congressional apartment.
Foley was a closeted gay who was an outspoken opponent of gay rights issues and therefore typical of Republican hypocrisy.
Frank remains both a senior member of Congress and a national spokesman for gay rights issues. He was therefore untouchable.
The “Republican Culture of Corruption” mantra was taken down of the shelf and reintroduced in every Democratic speech, just in time for the election.
Flushed from victory, Nancy Pelosi promised make ethics in government “the absolute, number one issue” of a Democrat-controlled Congress.
Speaker Pelosi’s first act as Speaker-elect of the most ethical Congress in history was to nominate Pennsylvania Congressman John (Jack) Murtha as Congressional Majority Leader.
Jack Murtha came to national prominence in recent years as the Democrat’s chief critic of the Iraq War, mainly because Murtha was a retired Marine colonel.
Since Murtha’s Nov. 17, 2005, call for an immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, one CNN anchor has called him “one of the most highly respected members of Congress,” the Associated Press has referred to Murtha as “one of Congress’ most hawkish Democrats,” and ABC News has noted that he is “a decorated marine who served in Vietnam.”
But Murtha achieved national prominence once before. According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “Murtha was one of eight members of Congress lured to a Washington, D.C., townhouse by a team of FBI agents posing as representatives of a fictitious Arab sheik. They handed out briefcases filled with $50,000 in return for helping the sheik gain residency in the United States.”
The Washington Post referred to the incident as “an ethical scrape” in which Murtha was “named as an unindicted co-conspirator and testified against two House colleagues.”
Murtha managed his unindicted co-conspirator status because he didn’t take the money. Instead, he told the FBI informant offering him the bribe; “You know, we do business for a while, maybe I’ll be interested, maybe I won’t,” Murtha said on the FBI videotape.
Despite not just Pelosi’s endorsement, but her active campaign in his support, Murtha was rejected by his fellow Democrats in favor of Stenny Hoyer.
Pelosi then championed the elevation of Florida Democrat Alcee Hastings as the head of the powerful House Intelligence Committee, once of the most sensitive jobs in the Congress.
Hastings is also a member of the powerful House Rules Committee and is a senior Member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI). On the HPSCI, Hastings is the Ranking Democratic Member of the Subcommittee on Terrorism and Homeland Security.
Alcee Hastings is also but one of six federal judges in US history ever to be removed from the bench by impeachment. Hastings was impeached by a Congressional vote of 413-3 and subsequently removed from the bench.
Among those Congressional Democrats who heard the evidence against Hastings and voted for his impeachment were Steny Hoyer, Charlie Rangel, John Conyers, and (gasp!) Nancy Pelosi. Hastings later ran for Congress and was elected in 1992.
While Pelosi’s memory may have faded, the rest of the Congressmen who voted to impeach Hastings in 1989 refused to support him to head the Intelligence Committee based on his ethical record.
This week, Nancy Pelosi is championing the elevation of Representative Alan Mollohan of West Virginia, the ranking Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee’s subcommittee for Science, State, Justice, Commerce and Related Agencies, as chairman. Mollohan is the only Democrat seeking that chair, which, among other things, oversees the Department of Justice, including the FBI.
It turns out that Mollohan is also being investigated by the FBI on charges that he funneled taxpayer money into nonprofit organizations he helped to set up and which support him with campaign contributions.
According to documents obtained by the NLPC, Mollohan and his wife, Barbara, reported under $550,000 in assets in 2000. In 2006, he was worth $8 million.
On April 10, a Congressional watchdog group accused the West Virginia Democrat of violating more than 250 House ethics rules.
Eleven days later, Pelosi announced that Mollohan would step down from the ethics committee while defending himself against the allegations. Now she wants him to chair the committee overseeing the FBI’s budget?
The GOP has had its share of scandals, as I’ve already noted. Trent Lott lost his seat as Senate Majority leader for making a politically incorrect statement honoring Strom Thurmond.
Tom DeLay resigned over allegations of corruption that have never gone to court.
Mark Foley became the Democrat’s poster boy for Republican corruption because he was gay, even though Foley immediately resigned.
Nancy Pelosi’s most ethical Congress in history includes Barney Frank, Jack Murtha, Alcee Hastings, and Alan Mollohan. Not only were they NOT forced to resign by the Democrats, but they all hold senior Congressional positions.
Pelosi’s first official acts included elevating them to even more senior positions — as part of her plan to introduce the “most ethical Congress in history.”
It would be ironic if it weren’t so sad.