Worse Than Weiner? Some Delinquent Lawmakers Kept Their Jobs

Weiner Resigns

Anthony Weiner screwed up. And he ultimately lost his job for it.

But there are some things the former New York congressman could have gotten away with, including driving under the influence and crashing into a capital office building barricade in the wee hours of the morning.

He also could have failed to pay his taxes, sought treatment for alcoholism, had a love child, married his lover, cheated with a staffer's wife, gotten caught by federal agents with hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribe money stuffed into his freezer or been found to frequent hookers.

Members of Congress guilty of those transgressions and other crimes have served out their terms, often with few, if any, calls that they resign.

Yet, Weiner taking a picture of his bulging underwear, posting it on the Internet, and later boldly lying about it, laid bare the wrath of Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, congressional Democrats and official Washington like no other scandal in recent memory.

In all of her 20 years in Congress, Pelosi had never before publicly called on a fellow Democrat to resign until Weiner.

When Democratic Rep. William Jefferson of Louisiana was indicted on 16 federal counts in 2007, neither then-Speaker Pelosi nor Majority Leader Steny Hoyer ever explicitly called on him to step down.

Jefferson, who denied wrongdoing, served out his term despite the swirling allegations and intensive ethics investigations, and was only later tried, found guilty and sentenced to prison.

Pelosi and other party leaders also avoided public calls for the resignation of Rep. Jim Traficant of Ohio before he was expelled from Congress in 2002 after a felony conviction, or of Rep. Charles Rangel of New York, who was found guilty of 11 violations of House ethics rules and formally censured late last year.

In 2006, after Rep. Patrick Kennedy of Rhode Island smashed his Ford Mustang into a barrier near Capitol Hill under the influence of prescription drugs (police officers described him as "intoxicated") colleagues encouraged him to seek treatment -- not leave office for unbecoming behavior.

And few political historians could recall when a sitting U.S. president so directly suggested that a member of Congress -- much less one who had not been charged with a crime or violations of House ethics rules -- step down, as President Obama did regarding Weiner earlier this week.

"Usually, presidents stay out of this stuff because it's just tradition for Congress to decide its own matters," said Princeton University political historian Julian Zelizer. "I can't remember a comparable scandal when a president did that. It's a very easy thing not to say anything.

"The irony of the Weiner situation is that there have been scandals when the leadership has been much more quiet in both parties," he added.

The House Ethics Committee late last year found Rangel -- the former chairman of the powerful Ways and Means Committee, which writes the nation's tax laws -- guilty of improper fundraising, inappropriate possession of multiple rent-controlled apartments and failure to pay taxes on a vacation home. But few leaders called on him to resign.

"He was censured of serious misconduct involving his office -- really serious things that had potential for criminal charges," said Melanie Sloan, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a left-leaning watchdog group. "We don't have anything remotely like that in the Weiner case."

Prominent Republicans, including House Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor, who had also called on Weiner to resign, have declined to make similar pronouncements following alleged transgressions of their conservative peers.

Republican Sen. David Vitter of Louisiana, who admitted ties to the so-called D.C. Madam prostitution ring and later apologized, may have actually committed a crime of soliciting a prostitute. But he remains in office.

"I'm not relitigating the David Vitter situation," Republican National Committee chairman Reince Preibus told Fox News when asked if party leaders were being hypocritical.

During the months-long investigation into Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., and his alleged cover up of a sex scandal with the wife of his former top aide, there were similarly no prominent public calls for him to resign.

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