The hits just keep on coming for House Republicans these days; one GOP Representative sentenced to more than eight years in prison for corruption, another indicted on counts of money laundering and now more facing questions about ethics and potentially criminal behavior.
Starting with some of the less damaging charges, The Hill's Alexander Bolton reports that Richard Pombo may have broken House rules and engaged in activities that should have raised serious conflict of interest issues.
Two staffers on the House Resources Committee played key roles in developing controversial environmental legislation while receiving salaries from the Department of Interior in apparent violation of House rules limiting their congressional service to one year.
Jackson Coleman and Rick Deery, the Interior employees, have worked as detailees under Rep. Richard Pombo (R-Calif.), the chairman of the Resources Committee, since the middle of 2003, Kennedy said. Their length of service is more than twice the length defined by the House ethics manual.
Does a Republican like Richard Pombo believe that the rules regulating the activities of Members of Congress simply don't apply to them because they are Republicans? Because they are a committee or subcommittee chair? Truth be told, this is not the biggest issue in Washington these days, nor is it the clearest example of illicit behavior by Republicans, but it does illustrate that even on small matters, Republican Members of Congress have shown a serious inability to play by the rules -- or the law.
Katherine Harris' misdeeds are also in the news this week, with The Washington Post's Charles Babcock reporting today that the Florida Representative greatly aided a major campaign contributor -- illegal campaign contributor (the donations he directed to Harris were illegal) -- who recently pled guilty to bribing another Representative.
Rep. Katherine Harris (R-Fla.) has acknowledged that she requested last year that $10 million in federal funds be set aside for a Navy intelligence program in her district at the request of Washington contractor Mitchell J. Wade, who pleaded guilty last week to bribing another House member.
Harris, who gained notoriety as secretary of state in Florida during the contested Bush-Gore presidential race in 2000, is running for the Senate this year. News media in her home state have been focusing on her dealings with Wade since prosecutors disclosed last week that she was the unwitting recipient of $32,000 in illegal campaign donations from Wade in 2004.
To top things off, Kevin Drum passes on some rumors circulating around the blogosphere today, namely that criminal charges may be pending against another four GOP Congressmen. The post, originally found on Preemptive Karma, reads:
A DC political operative has told me that Brent Wilkes, one of the individuals charged with bribing Republican Congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham, has struck a deal with prosecutors to testify.
Wilkes will implicate four more Republicans for possible criminal activity: Richard Pombo, John Doolittle, Duncan Hunter, and Jerry Lewis.
It's pretty hard to beat the Democratic rap that there has been a "culture of corruption" under Republican rule of Washington when so many Republican Members of Congress are dealing with all of these ethical and legal concerns. As Tom Foley, the last Democratic Speaker of the House, stated this week in an interview with MyDD, the current environment in Washington is significantly worse than it was during the so-called House banking scandal, which, according to some political analysts, was a catalyst for the Republican takeover of the House in 1994.
Well I think, as far as the bank matter is concerned, there is no comparison at all. No one was charged with any offense, there was no government money lost, there was no abuse of any particular Congressional activity, no legislation was effected. So it became a kind of a celebrated political issue, but it wasn't really a scandal in the sense of criminal activity, abuse of office, loss of government funds, or any kind of special advantage that any outside group received for any support or otherwise.
It is possible that the low opinion of the public for Congress will affect both parties, but more specifically the majority party, the Republican Party, as the circumstances of 1994 affected the Democrats.