It doesn’t seem to matter how much house cleaning voters do in the legislature; year after year, the corruption gets worse.
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) has released its report on the “most corrupt” politicians for 2010. Not surprisingly, Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) and Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-NY) make the list. Waters stands accused of obtaining millions in TARP money for the bank OneUnited, on whose board her husband once sat, and in which he owned more than $350,000 in stock. Yet even as Rep. Waters awaits trial for her offenses, voters in California’s 35th District keep sending her back to Washington. She’s currently serving her tenth term.
Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-NY) makes the list after being formally censured last December for “financial misconduct” that includes “misleading” financial disclosures and failing to pay property taxes. He also took corporate-paid trips to the Caribbean and traded legislative access for donations to his Rangel Center at City College.
Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. (D-IL) currently enjoys his eighth term in Congress in spite of investigations that he allegedly agreed to raise money for former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich in exchange for Barack Obama’s old Senate seat.
Drunk with power, arrogantly self-serving, and full of hubris, America’s legislators in both parties seem as corrupt and unethical as ever. Two-term Alaskan Senator Lisa Murkowski (R) makes the list for “purchasing land in Alaska for a price below market value, accepting a mortgage on terms not available to the general public, and for failing to accurately disclose the transaction.” Senator David Vitter (R-LA) is only in his first term but that didn’t stop him from soliciting prostitutes via the “D.C. Madam,” not surprising since Vitter was also apparently a long-time customer of Jeanette Maier, the “Canal Street Madam.”
Sixteen Republicans and ten Democrats made the list. California has the most with five and Louisiana came in second with three. CREW also compiled a list of the most “crooked candidates” of 2010, many of whom are currently serving and enjoying all the perks of public office from taxpayers’ money.
The number of scandals grows every year, and some politicians even seem to garner celebrity from their antics. Former IL Governor Blagojevich appeared on last season’s Celebrity Apprentice, receiving praise from Donald Trump for his “bravery” in appearing on the show.
Still, even with corruption to rival ancient Rome, voters repeatedly reward these shysters by sending them back to work. Why? Is it because there are no honest politicians out there? Although Americans made a clear statement in last year’s congressional elections by ousting the Democrat majority, ethics violations remain the norm in all offices of government.
Perhaps this is why Wisconsin’s senators think it’s perfectly ethical to skip work when they don’t get their way. Certainly anyone else would be fired for such conduct. But it seems that more and more politicians think that rules are something for the little people. And they’re probably right — what penalty will the Wisconsin senators pay for their blatantly childish behavior, and what precedent does their conduct set for other elected officials watching to see what they can get away with?
At least at the national level, there is some attempt to monitor things. The Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) is a non-partisan group responsible for investigating complaints of misconduct. Anyone can submit a complaint, and last year alone there were 2700 allegations filed; “approximately 1700 involved the executive branch,” the OCE said. But the OCE’s powers are quite limited, only referring cases to the House Ethics Committee, where the vast majority are then dropped. Still, politicians on the Hill don’t like the watchdog, and representatives from both parties have looked at ways to dismantle the OCE.
It’s unfortunate that lists like CREW’s “most corrupt” are so easy to compile because of the rampant excesses by our politicians. Perhaps it’s not possible for honest people to remain that way and get anything done in Washington, or so it seems. If the first quarter of 2011 is any indication, CREW’s list for next year will likely be expanding.