Sunday, November 20, 2005

Biggest Congressional Scandal In History?

The indictment this past week of GOP lobbyist Jack Abramoff’s business partner, Michael Scanlon, and his agreement to enter a plea of guilt in exchange for cooperating with government prosecutors, has some observers speculating that the government’s investigation may unravel the biggest congressional scandal in its history. The New York Times writes: “The Justice Department has signaled for the first time in recent weeks that prominent members of Congress could be swept up in the corruption investigation of Jack Abramoff, the former Republican superlobbyist who diverted some of his tens of millions of dollars in fees to provide lavish travel, meals and campaign contributions to the lawmakers whose help he needed most.”

Scanlon formerly held an insignificant staff position with House Majority Leader Tom DeLay before joining Abramoff a few years ago. In a few short years, the 35-year old Scanlon had amassed tens of millions in lobbying fees, mostly from Indian tribes for casino lobbying activities. According to the Washington Post, “[Scanlon] was a reporter-friendly spokesman for then-House Majority Whip Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) in 2000 when he quit Capitol Hill to join forces with Abramoff. Soon he was raking in a seven-figure salary, astounding former colleagues as he shed his student loans and picked up a mansion on the Delaware shore, an estate in St. Barts and an in-town apartment at the Ritz-Carlton in the District . . . Now the sandy-haired, buttoned-down Republican -- author of e-mails detailing wildly brash schemes to make money in politics -- is likely to take a turn as a star witness for the prosecution in the Justice Department's investigation of lawmakers, lobbyists, Capitol Hill staffers and executive branch officials,” writes the Washington Post.

Republicans in Congress, meanwhile, seem oblivious to the public’s discontent for the rampant corruption on Capitol Hill under their leadership. It’s failure to live up to its “Contract With America,” which helped put the party in control of Congress for the first time in more than 50 years in 1994, could well result in a watershed election for Democrats in 2006, putting them back in control for the first time in 12 years. Congressional reform “aimed at reducing the power of what Republicans saw as an entrenched Congressional leadership that didn’t represent the country was a key plank of the “Contract With America.” How soon they forget.

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