Paul Jacob

When the felonious Duke — that is, Duke Cunningham, former U.S. Rep from California's 50th District — left office last December, we had every reason to hope for something better, someone at least a little less criminal. We even had hopes for honesty!

And things looked up. A candidate entered the running promising to cut back on pork.

Candidate Brian Bilbray had been to Congress before, and he looked back on that time fondly, claiming to have been on the right side in 1995. "There's still more to do," he clarified in his recent campaign. He went so far as to offer a specific: "not allowing members of congress to put in private so-called earmarks for funding."

So of course he won the special election. That's how he gained the incumbency advantage for the next election, all on an interim position requiring a mere seven months of capitol industry.

While the ship of state creaked just a bit, allowing on one more captain to help decide her course, some of us wondered: how long will it take to corrupt the man? Terms? Years? Months?

More like: one week.

Bilbray was in the House just a handful of days when he voted for the latest appropriation bill, this one with over 1500 earmarks.

Fifteen hundred! Well, maybe the country just couldn't get along without that bill. Maybe we should let it slide. Pork is bad, but not

that bad, not bad enough to risk the stability of the state.

But what can we say about Bilbray's voting down each of Representative Jeff Flake's four anti-pork amendments? That's not one no, not a mere two, not even three.

That's four nos. (I feel like Abraham deciding the fate of Sodom and Gomorrah. Peradventure, do I hear five?)

I guess this is Bilbray's idea of the Reagan Legacy, the sole remnant of his commitment to less government: "Just Say No."

He can't hide, however, what he's saying "no" to: his own promises.

So that's the Bilbray Story. But what's the Rest of the Story?

Before the special election Bilbray seemed to be fighting a bit of an uphill battle. You see, he had been a lobbyist for several years. The opposition made much of this. Jadedly, he admitted, "Everyone is trying to say that everyone in Washington is tainted."

Hmmm. I wonder why. Could it be because everyone in Washington is tainted?

Well, I'm not even that cynical; I know a few good people in Sodom, a few more in Gomorrah.

But Bilbray certainly is tainted. Thus we add another crumbum into the ranks of the congressional crumbumhood.

Paul Jacob

Paul Jacob is President of Citizens in Charge Foundation and Citizens in Charge. His daily Common Sense commentary appears on the Web and via e-mail.