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.
I blame the liberal media. Damn them.
My sense is that the Republican rank and file would not be at all displeased with an overhaul of Republican leadership.
If there’s going to be a change, the GOP had better move fast, before the media starts reminding everyone of Roy Blunt’s own issues with lobbyists.
An interesting point to make – When was the last time that this group in power created a major piece of legislation? Aside from last year’s bankruptcy bill, which might have been necessary but does nothing to excite voters, the last major piece of legislation I can remember was the RX drug bill.
I know GW is going to roll out a tax proposal this year but I’m not sure how much political capital he has to get it passed.
I believe the Transportation Bill with it’s “bridge to nowhere” would also be considered in the large category.
I think most of the corruption can be traced to the “add ons’ to just about every bill passed. It is easy for the leadership to slip in laws/grants/whatevers in at the last minute. Most members of congress will tell you they don’t read the whole bill before voting.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe that is how the K Street Folks do it.
the individuals who work in it are the atoms in the steel.
Who the fuck pays to have these words printed?
I didn’t want to be a crook! I was momentum into it!
I think Neener and LaToya Jackson should be locked in a room together so we can figure out once and for all who the biggest freak is.
John has exactly the right take on Noonan’s piece. As a criticism of some Clinton failing, it might have some validity. Except that, for example, Clinton believed pretty strongly that FEMA ought to be run by an expert in emergency management. Only a terribly incompetent administration appoints someone like Michael Brown and then, when the Katrina effort turns into a disaster, proclaim it as another piece of evidence that bureaucracy is bad.
What’s the sound of hundreds of politicians crapping their pants?
I have no opinion on Noonan one way or the other, but it disturbs me to think how much she might have been paid to basically say that power corrupts and that being a cog in a large group reduces feelings of personal accountability.
Actually, it doesn’t disturb me. It depresses me.
Peggy Noonan is that paid shill that people are always calling somebody or other. Let’s just say that her views are not fettered by objectivity.
Man, that would be nice. Then we could get back those nice, sensible Republicans–you know, the ones you could actually hold a conversation with–who have apaprently been taking a five-year vacation.
As for Noonan…wow. Just wow. It’s a stupid piece of tortured logic, and even if we take her at face value (not really the best idea), aren’t these Republicans the ones who took office by claiming to be paragons of virtue who would clean up the filth and corruption of their opponents and predecessors? So Noonan would then, by her own logic, have to charge these people as being hypocrites and liars. But I’m not holding my breath waiting for that to happen.
Don’t think for a minute that Noonan had to be paid to go to the mat for the GOP. She doesn’t get off that easy. She is a true believer, and her words are her own. She is nothing more than Malkin/Coulter, except she is 5 times as intelligent, and her persona is so pure, warm and cuddly, it makes her seem reasonable.
This kind of stuff from Noonan shows why Reagan was truly the Great Communicator. He could read her speeched and people would say, “Yeah, that makes sense.” Now you read them and go, “WTF.”
IMHO, she’s far worse than Malkin/Coulter. They don’t have real blood on their hands.
This is a woman who blamed Deep Throat for the slaughter in Cambodia. After she worked for an administration that deliberately destabilized Cambodia that brought Pol Pot to power.
She makes me want to believe in Hell, because there’s a very, very special place reserved for her.
Speaking of reform measures that make sense, I heard someone recommending that all pending legislation must be publically posted on the Internet at least 72 hours before coming to a vote, giving Congress, staffers, bloggers and other interested parties, an opportunity to actually read all the provisions before they’re passed.
This may just make too much sense to be passed. Will sunlight actually make the cockroaches scurry for cover?
It’s a low cost, common sense measure as far as I can see. Any thoughts?
your right, she actually mattered, and that makes her worse.
I love the quick evolution of the defense.
Day before plea: Nothing to see here
Day1: I don’t know him, but here is the $80,000 he gave me.
Day 2: Democrats are up to their neck in this, it isn’t a republican scandal
Now: There are just a few bad republicans, so the GOP should lead reform, and Delay shouldn’t seek his leadership role. Ditch the body, and everything is fine.
And just for good measure: it isn’t really the republicans’ fault, they are the victim of the inevitable consequences of big government.
Republican corruption is due to big government, big government is a result of clinton, so, The Jack Abramoff scandal was directly caused by Bill Clinton.
Ed: sounds good, my guess would be that 72 hours is about 71 hours too early. Lots of last-minute hanky-panky.
Seems like the place to start.
What about giving congressmen a huge raise? Their salaries aren’t that high. They have to keep a residence in DC and one at home. Not all congressmen are independently wealthy. Some of them actually need an income. Give them a half mill a year. These are the people we ask to help run the nation in our best interests, let’s pay them like the job is actually important.
No more perks. None. No basketball tickets. No trips to Scotland. Nothing.
Former congressmen and staffers can’t take a job as a lobbyist in any shape form or fashion for at least 5-10 years. Congress shouldn’t be the place people go to get friendly with lobbyists for career advancement purposes.
What’s great about Noonan’s argument is that it applies to … everything.
Or how about
So would Noonan say …
Somehow, I doubt it.
Is it a first amendment violation to limit the amount of money that can be spent on a campaign. I realize that if you limit campaign expenses, the money is just going to flow into the unregulated, not really connected with the campaign (wink wink) swift boaters, but that is another issue.
It has been written quite a bit this week, but it is true: the job of a senator or congressman is to raise thousands of dollars, every day. That is a problem.
Weren’t we told over and over how the GOP was:
The party of moral values.
The party of patriotism.
The party of fiscal restraint.
The party of competence.
The party of ‘grown-ups’.
uh huh…. right.
If Peggy Noonan is ever forced out of Journamalism, I have the perfect replacement. Its someone that has never been heavily burdened with integrity, nor is he afraid to use emotion and tragedy as a shield. Don Surber.
Can I get a God-Bomb! Say Hallaluja!
The Other Steve
As whacked out as Noonan’s piece is… DougJ and his followers will repeat the talking points here, and over at Tom Maguie and Sharpton Goldstein’s place… and the other true believers will lap it up, because it distances themselves from having to deal with reality.
The only thing missing is Noonan saying (a la Flip Wilson), “The Devil made them do it!”
First and foremost we are the party of personal responsibility. That’s why it’s so frustrating to see big government come along and make us do things we don’t want to. I’ll tell you what though, once the GOP controls the government, things will be different.
Giving them a raise is an idea, but I’m not really sure how it changes the incentives. In fact it might encourage corruption, becuase when you get a $500k stipend, that’s worth fighting over…
as to this:
That would seem to make it harder to find decent staffers, unless they get a big raise too. Sooner or later, that starts to add up to real money…
Then pay them. Their job is important. These are the people charged with running our country. We could pay them all for the price of one alaskan bridge.
Noonan has a point. It’s just so damn easy to be moral and fair and to commit no wrongdoing when you’re never given the opportunity to do otherwise. The Democrats aren’t tied up in the Abramoff scandal not because they’re saints, but because Abramoff didn’t offer them any money. The Republicans were totally against pork barrel spending and heavy handed government fifteen years ago because they weren’t getting a slice of the pork and had no control over the heavy hand.
So yes, power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Thank you for stating the obvious.
But the sin that the Republicans have committed goes above and beyond mere corruption. A little pork here, a few “fake wars” there and the nation will get by – abet poorly and with no shame. But the White House has gone the extra mile in the past three years by deliberately wrecking the checks and balances that are supposed to reign in that corruption. And Congress has given the President a free pass. It’s only a matter of time until the Supreme Court has been rigged up to do the same.
Bending the rules, that’s a problem caused by imperfect people. Breaking the game, that’s another situation entirely. It’s the difference between stealing a piece off the table in chess and flipping over the entire board. I don’t want to see our entire government overturned because a few politicos need to get enough power to get their rocks off. That’s what’s truly shameful.
The Other Steve
Rather than staffers… who are not elected and are unaccountable.
How about we just increase the size of Congress?
When it started, each representative had about 40,000 people in their district. Today it’s more like 500,000.
If we increase the size of Congress 10 told… there will be plenty of people to work on bills and other things, and each one will be accountable to the voters as to their performance.
And even better… With 4,000 people in Congress… NOTHING WILL EVER GET DONE UNLESS IT IS REALLY IMPORTANT!
JT Snow is a horrible fit in the AL. He plays defense too well.
The Other Steve
My slogan is:
We’re a Big Country! We need a Big Congress!
(so we can have small government)
Bravo, sir, bravo. That calls for a Four Horsemen.
What bothers me is that the Democrats can’t seem to break over a solid 50-60% It seems like the people who are favoring Democrats are the same guys who always favor Democrats. But the guys who favor Republicans are just giving up and not voting. The “if I can’t have a good Republican I’d rather not have anything at all” mentality. That kinda bothers me.
there will bo only 5,231 earmarks per transportation bill.
Zifnab: Notice the AP Poll post you cite was deleted by Johnny Cole?
Must have depressed him.
Paddy. Look here. I created that as I deleted the other.
In theory, great idea. In practice, it would be an absolute zoo, and nothing would get done.
uh… on second thought, in practice it’s a great idea!
The collapse of the GOP’s chances in the 2006 elections due to the corruption exposures is relevant, John.
And one of the most telling indications of this is going to be polling.
Just because, as a closeted Bush apologist, you cannot bear to see evidence of your beloved GOPs political difficulties is hardly my fault.
“I didn’t want to be a crook! I was momentum into it!”
I look forward to the elections of 2006. Perhaps the hapless Republicans and Democrats about to go down on this scandal can channel Peggy Noonan and use the following for their re-election campaigns:
“For GOD’S sake someone STOP me before I run for Congress again”!
As a mere “cog in the machine” these members of Congress can not stop this vicious cycle of re-election and bribe taking. They need an intervention, they need our help.
For the right price, anybody is corruptable.
That’s because once you scrape the jiz of corruption off of both republicans and democrats, what you have left is liberal policies and conservative policies.
for conservatives who usually vote republican, liberal policies suck, so why vote for a democrat?
Why would someone sticking to their principles bother you?
Man. Transparancy. That would be a real tragedy. Suddenly politicians wouldn’t be able to close their eyes, cover their ears, and claim they totally didn’t see all that pork slip by them alongside the wording that kneecaps our civil liberties.
sorry Zif, mispelled your name.
That’s because once you scrape the jiz of corruption off of both republicans and democrats, what you have left is liberal policies and conservative policies.
From my experiences, alot of people follow Republicans not out of love for conservatism but because they don’t know any better and they’ve been raised on the “dirty little Democrat” line for so long they can’t bring themselves to vote for anyone with a donkey shaped button.
The 2000 and 2004 elections – for all their contravery – had some of the highest voter turnouts in ages. It’ll be a shame to see those numbers go down simply because there aren’t enough good Republicans to elect.
Fixed yours. And don’t I know it…
what is a good Republican?
I’m still waiting to find one, can you point me in the direction of one?
As a “recovering lobbyist” (at the state, not national, level), I’ve often wondered, “what could be done to stop The System?”
I call it The System because that is precisely what it is, and it exists regardless of political party – it is a System based on Money, Business, Access and Power.
To destroy The System, all you have to do is wipe out one of those four elements. The problem then becomes, all of the other elements begins to “push back” when one is affected.
For example, taking Money out of politics by, say, giving all candidates for office a set amount of money that comes from tax dollars instead of donations upsets all of the other three elements: Business loses its influence over Congressional agendas, interest groups lose paid-for Access, and those in Power now may lose it as the playing field becomes more level.
Elminating Access means that those in Power lose Money and Business cannot achieve its legislative goals.
Sure, you can try to inject transparency, but are enough interested Americans looking? In NJ, where I lobbied, they have more stringent lobbying rules than at the federal level, and they even have each lobbyist’s quarterly reports on public display via the internet. You know who looks at them? Other lobbyists and politicians. Sure, sometimes the media does as well, and they might find something to raise a big stink about, but they are not the ones with Power.
Because, remember, the only type of monitoring system that Government will ever accept in terms of watching over The System is one in which the The System is monitored by…the Government.
Fox in the ole hen house.
Its self-sustaining System, and each side is feeding off the trough. I know. I used to throw in the feed. ;)
“For GOD’S sake someone STOP me before I run for Congress again”!”
AHAHAHAHA! Now, that’s funny, and bi-partisan too!
Give me a f*cking break. We’re talking about someone who appointed Janet Reno for Attorney general. He openly boasted that his priority was not competency, but to make his appointments “look more like America”. Not excusing Bush, but many of you people live in a BUBBLE
Whether or not she was qualified for her position has nothing to do with Clinton believing FEMA needed a competent manager. No one said he believed all his appointments need to be run by experts in the field.
Are you seriously suggesting that appointment of a FEMA director is more important than the appointment of the Attorney General?
For better or worse, I think McCain is a good Republican, but he’s a classic example. Senator Voinovich from Ohio has always struck me as solid. And then you’ve got Arlen Spector, a man with the balls to be both pro-Choice AND have push for Chairman of the Senate Judicary Committee. Those are the handful that come to mind. Anyone who joined the Gang of Fifteen (thirteen? something like that) on the Republican side showed a clear degree of honor and integrity that I appreciate.
What’s more, for a New York politician you can’t go wrong with Gilliani. He’s not a saint, but he can get the job done. And if you can get left leaning New York City to vote for you, you must be doing something right as a Republican.
McCain believes that intelligent design should be taught in school. What an asshole.
This says it all.
Maybe if Darrell’s agenda is to change the subject from Bush’s appointment of unqualified cronies, he should have chosen to focus on a different office than Attorney General.
Peggy Noonan? Maybe the Administration has gone beyond paying writers to write, to now paying readers to read. Is John is getting a nickel for everyone who looks at it?
I’m not suggesting that, seriously or otherwise. I am seriously suggesting you get immediate help with your reading skills though.
The Disenfranchised Voter
Really? Because to me, and all other rational people, it looks like that is exactly what you are doing.
The Other Steve
Bush appointed John Ashcroft and Abu Gonzales. It’s pretty clear now that Reno was 10 times the attorney general as either of those guys.
Actually, have any of the Bush cabinet members turned out better than any Clinton ones? Certainly not treasury, defense or state dept.
I guess you could say transportation, but then that’s only because it’s the same guy.
I never really understood the idea of electing someone who hated government. Wanted government to be smaller, sure — there are good discussions to be had about which programs work and which ones don’t. But do you take your car to a mechanic who hates automobiles? Is your kid’s teacher someone who hates schools? Do you get a doctor who hates medicine? It’s just bizarre.
Well, first of all, you have to understand that the “hatred of government” routine is a ruse.
These people don’t “hate government.” They only hate it when it’s run by other people. People who hate power don’t run for elected office. Office seekers are after power, and once they have power, they love everything about government that gives them power. This is not a party-specific trait, it’s universal.
Also, a good deal of the late 20th-century “hatred” of government is really nothing more than resentment of liberal government. The safety nets, the protections, the entitlements, and most of all … the civil rights issues … are unpopular among some groups (until they need them, of course; you won’t find many 70-year-olds living on Social Security who think Social Security is a bad idea. You won’t find many people whose families and finances are ruined by health care costs telling you that Medicare or government-paid health insurance is a bad idea).
Proof that “conservatives” don’t hate government? Look no further than the Schiavo case. But wait, are these meddlers really conservatives? Well, traditional conservatism is a necessary component of government, but it will never be popular enough to govern by itself in this country without the crutch of national defense propping it up. The politics of the Cold War period was marked in the U.S. by contests between the demagoguery of the left on matters like Social Security and welfare, and the demagoguery of the right on matters like communism. Over time, Americans were able to sort it out and get themselves liberal domestic policy and conservative foreign policy at roughly the same time.
Those old coalitions and balances are now broken, and it remains to be seen how thing reshapes itself. IMO, Bush has put a serious dent in the Republican future with his bottomless reservoir of incompetance and fecklessness. But we’ll see. There is still the Dem Old Guard (the Loserman-Biden entrenched power in Washington) who are looking to leverage themselves one more dance at our expense before the new Kossack-fueled coalitions finally tar and feather them and run them out of town on a rail.