ABC News’ Rick Klein Reports: Is Rod Blagojevich the Democrats’ Jack Abramoff?
Abramoff, you may recall, was the well-connected Republican lobbyist at the center of a series of scandals that ensnared a swath of the Washington GOP establishment a few years back.
More than that, Abramoff came to stand as a symbol of Republican misdeeds — a poster child for the Democratic argument about a GOP “culture of corruption” that helped Democrats ride to power on Capitol Hill in 2006.
The scandal surrounding Blagojevich, the Democratic governor of Illinois, may or may not implicate members of Congress, in addition to at least the outer ring of advisers in the incoming Obama administration.
But already, Blagojevich — with his colorful language, and not-to-be-believed efforts to essentially sell a Senate seat — is allowing Republicans to argue that that the “culture of corruption” tag belongs firmly on the other side of the aisle these days.
“Just in the last few days, we have seen more stunning examples of wholesale Democratic corruption, for a party that promised to ‘drain the swamp’ and uphold the highest standards of ethical conduct,” Kevin Smith, a spokesman for House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, tells ABC News.
It’s not just Blago and the Chicago folks. New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer, once a rising star of the Democratic Party, resigned in a sex scandal last year. After following Mark Foley into Congress, Rep. Tim Mahoney, D-Fla., lost his race for a second term with a sex scandal of his own.
Rep. William Jefferson, D-La., lost his reelection race over the weekend, after coming under federal indictment in a case where federal agents famously found $90,000 in cash stuffed in his freezer.
And — in a nagging headache for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. — the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, Charles Rangel, is facing a widening ethics inquiry into a variety of questionable tax schemes and relationships.
Most of these folks haven’t been convicted of anything yet. But taken together, the emerging lineup of Democratic rogues is starting to stack up against the GOP grouping of Abramoff/Foley/Tom DeLay/Bob Ney/Larry Craig/David Vitter.
So far, Pelosi’s attitude toward the most pressing issue she’s facing — regarding Rangel, D-N.Y. — is to wait and see what the ethics committee decides. This leaves Rangel in charge of writing the nation’s tax laws while he continues to battle allegations of tax improprieties, as a number of newspaper editorial boards have pointed out.
It also raises questions about Pelosi’s famous 2006 commitment to “turn the most closed, corrupt Congress in history into the most open and honest Congress in history.”
Publicly, Republicans are calling for Rangel to step aside, at least until the ethics committee comes back with its report.
But privately, they are more than happy to see him stay in place — for the same reason that they’d like to see the Blagojevich affair fester and widen a bit.