Those who know me know I despise the American political system. That’s why I love Republicans.
No single group has undermined the credibility of the narrow-minded, partisan government more than the post-millennium Republicans. Maybe when President Bush vowed to restore honor and dignity to the White House, what he meant was committing enough heinous acts to drive the monopolized two-party legislature into the ground. I would like to take this opportunity to thank some of the less recognized participants in the party, whose collective action will finally make both parties the way the country needs them: gone.
This week’s indictment of Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens is the tip of the iceberg. Stevens failed to report more than $250,000 in gifts, including home renovations and a Land Rover, from the large Alaska oil field contractor VECO Corp.
Stevens is just the latest in a long and proud lineage of Republicans accepting bribes, particularly from defense and oil contractors.
The undisputed champion of Congressional corruption is Randy “Duke” Cunningham. The California congressman pled guilty to conspiracy and tax evasion in November 2005 after accepting millions in bribes, including cars, prostitutes, and trips in private jets. Cunningham earned the gifts by pressing more than $150 million in defense contracts. That kind of corruption takes a special kind of person.
Former House Republican majority leader Tom DeLay employed a multi-pronged approach to scumbagism; he was indicted for laundering federal campaign contributions and also took bribes from a much bigger criminal, Jack Abramoff. DeLay killed bills to help clients of Abramoff’s all-Republican lobbying firm. One of the most hypocritical incidents was the blocking of legislation that would have banned sex shops and sweatshops in the U.S. territory of the Northern Mariana Islands, in return for an Abramoff-funded family vacation there.
Human rights activists testified that the largely immigrant population was working 12-hour days for half of U.S. minimum wage and was kept behind barbed wire in shacks. DeLay, a devout Christian, called the island “a perfect petri dish of capitalism.”
Abramoff’s commitment to corruption seemed to know no bounds, and his reach touched many other heavy political players. Among them, former Ohio congressman and chairman of the House Administration Committee, Bob “Freedom Fries” Ney. Like Abramoff’s many other legislative puppets, Ney received all the same lavish gifts: expensive dinners, parties at the MCI skybox, and a $100,000 golf outing in Scotland.
Abramoff’s connection in the Senate was Conrad Burns of Montana, also the former chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on the Interior. “Every appropriation we wanted from Sen. Conrad Burns’ Committee, we got,” Abramoff told Vanity Fair in 2006. Burns received around $150,000 for his efforts. You may be thinking that these Republicans are incredibly easy to buy. But not everything in their culture of corruption is about money. A lot is about sex, too.
Idaho Sen. Larry Craig sputtered a number of weak defenses for his alleged attempt at a homosexual bathroom romp with an undercover police officer in the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport. After initially pleading guilty, Craig said he only did so under pressure from an Idaho newspaper. Craig helped enact the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” military policy, opposed gay marriage, and opposed a ban on discrimination based on sexual orientation.
Many other prominent political figures belong here, including more than a few Democrats. But, like most things the Democrats do, even their scandals are mired in mediocrity.
If Democrats want to do their part in reshaping the political system, they’re going to have to start sabotaging their party’s integrity in greater numbers. Hint: former Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove is a free agent.
Those of us fighting for new politicians and systems devoid of such greed, hypocrisy and imperialist doctrine salute your efforts to shed light on the toxic environment in Washington. Hopefully, the American people will soon demand third-party or independent politicians who are less hypocritical, materialistic and selfish.
Put the Democrats in the trash bin on your way out.
Drew Robert Winter is a State News columnist. Reach him at email@example.com.