What better way to end 2009 with a snappy overview of the “top ten” ethics scandals of the year!
Citizens for Responsiblity and Ethics in Washington (CREW) has put together a review of some of some of the high points, along with CREW’s wishes for the new year.
Of course, there’s the TARP/executive pay bonuses, the SEC’s failure to catch Madoff as he ripped off clients (starting way back in 1992), and a few sex scandals involving the likes of Gov. Mark Sanford and Senator John Ensign. Then there was the political corruption of Reps. Charlie Rangel and John Murtha with transgressions ranging from failing to pay taxes to shady pay-to-play schemes.
But there a few other items that may have slipped under your radar.
Here’s a sampling (the report is in PDF format):
Public Corruption Prosecutions Were So 2009.
In 2009, the Supreme Court accepted three cases challenging honest services law, a provision in the federal mail-fraud statute making it illegal for public or private employees to “deprive another of the intangible right of honest services.” This statute is a critical prosecutorial tool for fighting public corruption, having been used to convict former Rep. William Jefferson (D-LA) and a large number of those involved in the Jack Abramoff scandal. During oral arguments, the Supreme Court justices focused on all the ways the statute can misapplied, strongly suggesting they plan to limit the statute’s breadth, if not hold it unconstitutional. Already, the prosecutors
handling the case of former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich have indicated they will re-indict the governor to delete the honest services fraud counts. In addition, Rep. Jefferson plans to ask a court to give him a new trial, though he was convicted of other charges in addition to honest services fraud.
CREW’s holiday wish: For the honest services fraud statute to remain intact so the law can continue to be used to convict the likes of former lobbyist Jack Abramoff and former Rep. Jefferson.
Ah, what would the year be like with the Roberts Supreme Court pulling some sort of crap?
And then there’s this:
What, The FEC Is Supposed to Enforce (Not Gut) Campaign Finance Laws?
The Federal Election Commission (FEC) is failing in its mandated mission to administer and enforce regulations governing the financing of federal elections. Violations of federal campaign finance law are likely to go unpunished thanks to the partisan deadlock that has rendered the FEC ineffectual. With three Republican and three Democratic appointees, the FEC consistently fails to take action against even the most egregious violations. As The Washington Post said in an op-ed on June 15th: “The three Republican appointees are turning the commission into The Little Agency That Wouldn’t: wouldn’t launch investigations, wouldn’t bring cases, wouldn’t even accept settlements that the staff had already negotiated.”
By not taking action against federal candidates who break the rules, the FEC is encouraging unethical campaign tactics that privilege money over principle. The FEC commissioners’ failure to take their oversight mission seriously threatens to undermine campaign finance laws and further flood the electoral process with money. With a lack of campaign finance oversight, political influence on Capitol Hill will be bought by the highest bidder and the common good will be sacrificed to special interests.
CREW’s holiday wish: A restructured FEC with an odd number of commissioners, as opposed to he current even number of six, would go a long way to ending the deadlock and allow the FEC to effectively enforce campaign finance laws.
Gee, where’s all that “bipartisanship” when you need it??
All in all, it was a banner year for scandals, but it looks like the stage is set for some of them to staying around as the “gifts that keep on giving.”
…including one that’s just revving up! Ever hear of the “Caribbean Caucus?” From the Miami Herald:
The ties between indicted banker Allen Stanford and members of Congress — including millions in contributions and weekends in five-star Caribbean resorts — are now the subject of a sweeping federal investigation.
Lots of money floating around over the years to some familiar names: the powerful Republican Pete Sessions, John Sweeney, Gregory Meeks, Donald Payne, Phil Crane, the Republican National Committee, the Senate Republican Campaign Committee, the G.W. Bush inaugural committee, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and more…
Won’t that make a great start to 2010??
P.S.–HAPPY NEW YEAR, EVERYONE!!!
Filed under: Current Politics | Tagged: Allen Sanford's ties to Congress, Bernie Madoff, Charlie John Murtha, Chief Justice John Roberts, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), executive pay bonuses, federal campaign finance law, Federal Election Commission (FEC), federal mail-fraud statute, former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, Gov. Mark Sanford, honest services law, indicted-banker Allen Sanford, Jack Abramoff scandal, pay-to-play schemes, political influence, political sex scandals, Rep. Charlie Rangel, Rep. William Jefferson, Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Senator John Ensigh, special interests, Supreme Court, TARP, unethical campaign tactics | 7 Comments »