"Culture of corruption" spreads beyond party lines

Posted: Jun 02, 2006 12:06 AM

Democrats need a new 2006 campaign issue. It seems their “culture of corruption” accusations regarding the Republican Party have come back to bite them in the rear.

Corruption is hardly a new phenomenon. Thousands of years ago, King David wrote, “All have turned aside, they have together become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one” (Psalm 14:3). Corruption is an equal-opportunity temptation, luring men and women of all ethnicities, religious affiliations, socioeconomic backgrounds, and political parties. 

Republicans who see their party as the more “moral” one set themselves up to be slammed by the media and Democrats time and time again. From Richard Nixon’s “I’m not a crook,” to Newt Gingrich’s affair with a congressional aide, to Rep. Duke Cunningham’s recent conviction for taking bribes from defense contractors, Republicans have no justification for self-righteousness – or for pointing fingers.

Likewise, Democrats should think twice before getting too smug. After months of campaigning against the Republican “culture of corruption,” Democratic leaders have recently been humbled by the stumbles of three of their own.

The first Democrat to fall was Rep. Alan Mollohan (D-WV), who resigned from his post as ranking Democrat on the House Ethics Committee after even the left-leaning Washington Post called on him to step down. One of Townhall.com’s own Gold Partners, the National Legal & Policy Center, was the first to uncover improprieties in Mollohan’s financial disclosure reports. After months of research, the NLPC filed a 500-page complaint detailing hundreds of ethics law violations by Mollohan.

Since then, the allegations have continued to pile up. The list of shady business dealings, questionable business partners, and appropriations to Mollohan’s own organizations and campaign contributors is way too lengthy for this article, but you can read more here. Did I mention that although Mollohan was only worth about half a million in 2000, he reported $6.3 million in assets four years later? Mollohan claims real estate investments have been very good to him, but the NLPC’s Ken Boehm says that according to Mollohan’s financial statements, a D.C. condo complex co-owned by Mollohan increased in value by 6,566%. Yes, you read that right. That’s like you buying a condo for $100,000 and selling it four years later for $6.6 million. I wish my house value would increase like that. Keep in mind that we’re talking about the former Democratic leader of the House Ethics Committee. Ironic, isn’t it?

The second Dem to fall was William Jefferson (D-LA), who was caught with $90,000 in apparent bribe money. After the FBI searched his congressional office, Jefferson has managed to deflect some of the attention from himself by making the FBI investigators out to be the bad guys. Even Republican Speaker of the House Denny Hastert is backing Jefferson’s complaints, arguing that the FBI raid violated the separation of powers. 

Whether it did or didn’t, let’s keep in mind who it was who was caught on tape accepting bribe money: William Jefferson.

This isn’t Jefferson’s first brush with scandal. In fact, my bipartisan Hill sources all acknowledge that they always figured it was just a matter of time until Jefferson was caught. A former Jefferson aide pleaded guilty earlier this year to bribery-related charges, alleging that his boss had demanded money in exchange for helping to broker two African telecommunications deals. FBI raids of Jefferson’s DC and Louisiana homes had already uncovered a great deal of evidence, including the now-famous $90,000 in the freezer. And apparently Jefferson had refused to honor subpoenas for the documents that the FBI eventually raided his congressional office to find.

It’s hard to imagine that this member of Congress is squeaky clean.

The third Democrat to stumble was the Senate’s own Minority Leader, Harry Reid. The AP reported this week that Reid accepted free ringside seats to three boxing matches from the Nevada Athletic Commission as it was trying to influence his support for legislation to create a federal boxing commission. Whether Reid misunderstood the Senate gift rules or not, the rules warn specifically against accepting gifts if the giver may be trying to influence official action. This may have been just a slip-up for Reid, but it was a careless mistake by the leader of the party who wants to make Republicans out to be the corrupt ones.

A few timeless lessons to take away:

1. Those in glass houses should not throw stones. And NLPC’s Ken Boehm notes the obvious: that “the House and the Senate are glass houses” right now.

2. Those who get into trouble will nearly always look for a scapegoat. Mollohan and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi blame his trouble on “the National Legal and Policy Center, which engages in highly partisan attacks on Democrats.” Jefferson blames the FBI. And Harry Reid blames his own curiosity about the boxing industry.

To quote Cal Thomas, "You don't change Washington -- Washington changes you."  No one is 100% blameless in Washington, D.C, no matter how much integrity or faith they start out with. Even our congressional heroes have regrets about how they’ve handled situations in the past. So let’s cut out the silly self-righteousness and self-centeredness, prosecute members of both parties who break the law, and get back to debating the issues that the American people really care about.