Democrats think they've found a way to regain power without having to come up with any new and workable ideas. They'll blame Republicans for the "culture of corruption" revealed, they say, by Jack Abramoff's lobbying activities.
It's hard to top Mark Twain's observation more than a century ago - long before Abramoff's birth - but not long before corrupt politicians: "It could probably be shown by facts and figures that there is no distinctly native criminal class except Congress." Twain's observation seemed nonpartisan enough, unlike the Democrats who think people have short memories of what the political culture looked like when they dominated it for four decades.
In the not-so-distant and seemingly more innocent past, Rep. Wayne Hays hired blonde bombshell Elizabeth Ray as his secretary. She could not type, but had other assets. Ray later claimed she was Hays' mistress. In 1996, Dan Rostenkowski pleaded guilty and went to prison for pocketing $9,300 from the House Post Office. That ethical stalwart, the impeached President Bill Clinton, subsequently pardoned him. Speaker Jim Wright resigned over allegations that he profited from a collection of his speeches that were sold in bulk in lieu of speaking fees that were limited by House rules. Wilbur Mills frolicked with a stripper delightfully named Fanne Foxe in Washington's Tidal Basin. There's plenty more for suddenly righteous Democrats to ponder, but this ought to be enough to get them off their "holier-than-thou" platform and take an interest in a bipartisan effort to fix the pathetically broken ethics system.
More recently, some of the same Democrats now lashing Republicans for their real and perceived sins have, themselves, taken money from Abramoff. There may be nothing illegal about taking the money, unless members traded their votes and influence on behalf of Abramoff's clients. It is whether members "sold" their votes and influence that has attracted the attention of the Justice Department.
Roll Call, the newspaper of Capitol Hill, has carried stories on how Democrats frequently appeal for donations to K Street lobbyists, just like Republicans. So virtue is as difficult to detect among some Democrats as it is among some Republicans. It depends on which party is in the majority and which is in the minority.
Cal Thomas is co-author (with Bob Beckel) of the book, "Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That is Destroying America".
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