We can all agree – regardless of our political persuasions – that over the past several years an unprecedented wave of corruption, cronyism and special-interest sleaze has gripped our nation’s capital. To bring greater public attention to individuals involved in these ethics scandals – in the hope of preventing such abuses of the public trust in the future – Public Citizen established the Ethics Hall of Shame. To be included, a member of Congress must have committed illegal acts or engaged in conduct that is highly abusive of the public trust in the service of special interests. According to Public Citizen, those members of Congress in the “dishonorable mention” category have been involved in activity that is ethically questionable or offensive to the public trust, but which does not rise to the same level of wrongdoing as that of the inductees into the Hall of Shame.
The Hall of Shame:
• Jack Abramoff, Admitted Felon and Former Super-Lobbyist. Abramoff is the poster child of why systemic reform to the influence-peddling system is so desperately needed in Washington.
• ex-Rep. Tom DeLay (R-TX). DeLay, called “The Hammer,” was forced to resign his position as House majority leader. He is under indictment for money laundering in Texas. Likely he will be the focus of a Justice Department investigation for his close ties to Jack Abramoff.
• ex-Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham (R-CA). He pleaded guilty to taking $2.4 million in bribes from defense contractors and was sentenced to 8 years in prison.
• Rep. Bob Ney (R-OH). Ney resigned as chairman of the House Administration Committee because of allegations that he used his office to help Jack Abramoff and his clients.
• Rep. Richard Pombo (R-CA). Pombo went to bat for a Jack Abramoff client. He short-circuited an investigation into the owner of a failed savings and loan. His aides attempted to scuttle an environmental regulation that could have hurt the Pombo family’s business.
• Senator Conrad Burns (R-MT). Burns was a major recipient of Jack Abramoff’s largess, who went to extraordinary lengths to help an Abramoff client.
• Rep. William Jefferson (D-LA). The Louisiana congressman was involved in an investigation of alleged extortion in a business investment scheme; was found to have stashed large amounts of cash in his freezer.
• Rep. John Doolittle (R-CA). He passed $37 million in defense contracts to the same man that bribed Cunningham, held a fundraiser in one of Abramhoff’s skyboxes, and is currently under investigation by the Justice Department.
• Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN). Dr. Frist is currently under investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission for possible insider stock trading. He also went to extraordinary lengths to insert a provision into a new law that will insulate drug companies from some defective products lawsuits.
• House Majority Whip Roy Blunt (R-MO) Blunt slipped a favor for a major tobacco company into legislation creating the Department of Homeland Security, but withdrew it after getting caught.
You can probably think of several others who should be considered for this dubious list. There are a good number who certainly could be candidates. Hopefully, at the end of the year, this list will be much shorter. The American people clearly deserve better than they have gotten thus far in our nation’s capitol. Hopefully, we will see a new day during 2007.
Source: Public Citizen
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