The DeLay/Abramoff/Cunningham/Ney/Culture of Corruption Pile-on/fall-out continues. First, the Opinion Journal:
This week’s plea agreement by “super-lobbyist” Jack Abramoff has Republicans either rushing to return his campaign contributions in an act of cosmetic distancing, accuse Democrats of being equally corrupt, or embrace some new “lobbying reform” that would further insulate Members of Congress from political accountability.
Here’s a better strategy: Banish the Abramoff crowd from polite Republican society, and start remembering why you were elected in the first place.***
It’s also notable how few Members of Congress so far have truly been implicated, beyond accepting entirely legal campaign contributions. The most culpable is Ohio’s Bob Ney, who has been cited in a “criminal information” for receiving trips and other favors in return for statements entered into the Congressional Record. Mr. Ney says that he too was duped, but there’s no question he was willing to tap dance on cue for Mr. Scanlon, and that alone is sleaze-by-willing-association. If the House Ethics Committee serves any useful purpose, sanctioning Mr. Ney ought to be it.
The bigger political target is former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, more of whose former aides may end up striking plea deals. This doesn’t implicate Mr. DeLay directly, but the cloud around him clearly isn’t going to dissipate even if he prevails (as he probably will) against his politicized Texas indictment by Ronnie Earle.
Next, the EJ Dionne:
It almost makes you feel sorry for Jack Abramoff.
Republicans once fell all over themselves to get his “moolah,” the term used famously by the disgraced superlobbyist, and to get his advice on dealing with that warm and cuddly entity known as “the lobbying community.”
Suddenly, Abramoff enters two plea bargains, and these former friends ask, in puzzled tones, “Jack Who ?”
Over the past few days, politicians — from President Bush and House Speaker Dennis Hastert on down — raced to return Abramoff contributions, or compassionately sent the moolah off to charity. There’s a scramble to treat him as a wildly defective gene in an otherwise healthy body politic, and to erase the past. But seeing the record of the past clearly is essential to fixing the future.
The WaPo News section has more:
An internal battle is underway among House Republicans to permanently replace Rep. Tom DeLay (Tex.) as majority leader and put in place a new leadership lineup that is better equipped to deal with the growing corruption scandal.
Acting Majority Leader Roy Blunt (Mo.) will ask House Republicans to make his temporary tenure permanent early next month if, as is likely, DeLay is unable to clear his name in the gathering corruption and campaign finance scandals, according to a member of the GOP leadership and several leadership aides.
The move would almost certainly touch off a GOP power struggle between Blunt, whose rise to power was heavily aided by DeLay and House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (Ill.), and House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John A. Boehner (Ohio), a former House leader who has been maneuvering for a comeback.
Finally, Ronnie Earle is widening the scope of his prosecution:
The Texas prosecutor who secured an indictment of Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) on money-laundering charges broadened the scope of his inquiry into election spending yesterday, demanding documents related to funds that passed through a nonprofit organization, the U.S. Family Network.
The group, which was founded in 1996 by DeLay’s then-chief of staff, Edwin A. Buckham, received $500,000 in 1999 from the National Republican Congressional Committee and used some of the money to finance radio ads attacking Democrats. The Federal Election Commission fined the party in 2004 for its role in the funding.
The prosecutor, Ronnie Earle, sent subpoenas yesterday to Buckham; the group’s former president, Christopher Geeslin; the NRCC; and the treasurer of DeLay’s leadership political action committee, Americans for a Republican Majority.
I have a feeling this is going to dominate a lot of news cycles.
*** Update ***
This piece (defense? jibberish? silliness?) yesterday from Peggy Noonan deserves a look, if you need a laugh:
The problem with government is that it is run by people, and people are flawed. They are not virtue machines. We are all of us, even the best of us, vulnerable to the call of the low: to greed, conceit, insensitivity, ruthlessness, the desire to show you’re in control, in charge, in command.
If the problem with government is that it is run by people and not, as James Madison put it, angels, the problem with big government is that it is run by a lot of people who are not angels. They can, together and in the aggregate, do much mischief. They can and inevitably will produce a great deal of injustice, corruption and heartlessness.
People in government–people in a huge, sprawling government–often get carried away. And they don’t always even mean to. But they are little tiny parts of a large and overwhelming thing. If government is a steamroller, and that is in good part how I see it, the individuals who work in it are the atoms in the steel. The force of forward motion carries them along. There is inevitably an unaccountability, and in time often an indifference about what the steamroller rolls over. All the busy little atoms are watching each other, competing with each other, winning one for their little cluster. And no one is looking out and being protective of what the steamroller is rolling over–traditions, shared beliefs, individual rights, old assumptions, whatever is being rolled over today.
This is essentially why conservatives of my generation and earlier generations don’t like big government.
It seems Peggy Noonan is channeling P.J. O’Rourke when he wrote that “the Republicans are the party that says government doesn’t work and then they get elected and prove it.” Shorter Peggy Noonan- These scandals are inevitable, because big government made them do it.