Washington's Most Corrupt List, 2010

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.