April 13, 2006

A Democratic culture of corruption?

Democrats planning to use the Jack Abramoff scandal to tie all Republicans to a "culture of corruption" as a strategy for victory in this year's elections may have to re-think that plan.

Congressman William Jefferson of Louisiana is the subject of an ethics complaint filed against him by the group Citizens for Responsiblity and Ethics. The charges, some which date back a few years, include bribery and conspiracy that have already tarnished several of his aides and former staffers. The new complaint also includes misuse of federal resources appropriated as disaster relief in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Democrats up in arms about the federal response to the hurricane now must look to see if one of their own misused funds that were supposed to go to the victims.

Detroit Congressman John Conyers, top Democrat in the Judiciary Committee, apparently made his staffers baby-sit his children, work on campaigns, and do personal chores for him, according to revelations from several former staffers. Conyers, under investigation, refuses to say anything until he has consulted his lawyer.

And the third case, Rep. Alan Mollohan, ranking Democrat on the House Ethics Committee (yes, the Ethics committee, of all things) has been very unethical by slipping earmarks in legislation to benefit corporations and individuals who contributed to his fortune as a multi-millionaire. Even as he faces investigation by federal prosecutors, even more alarming is the $250 million he funneled to non-profit groups he helped set up. The people who received jobs from him than gave him thousands back in political donations, and then it seems he returned the favor with earmarks, in a seemingly roundabout patronage system that he created himself. Democrats are sticking by him for now, but the question is how long can the Dems let allegations of corruption linger around their guy on the ethics committee, who oversees and investigates others for similar acts? The New York Times is already warning the the Dems that if they don't force Mollohan to resign, they risk losing their edge over the Republicans and could face defeat in November.

All of these cases, still developing, weaken the Democrats claim to be a force against corruption. And apparently, unlike the Republicans, winning elections doesn't seem to matter as much as inter-party loyalty. The old line "Do as I say, not as I do" summarizes the current Democratic house and senate leadership very well.