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The spreading stain of scandal
An editorial / By Dale McFeatters
Scripps Howard News Service


January 06, 2006

As is frequently observed of the young idealists who flock to the nation's capital, "They came to do good and stayed to do well." Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich applies it to the Republican Revolution he led in 1994.

And, as pundit Andrew Ferguson said in an article reflecting conservatives' dismay that the Republicans who had come to Washington to drain the swamp were instead wallowing it in, "Sometime around 1995, Republicans in Washington stopped using the term 'Beltway Bandits.' "

The culmination of the realization that with victory go spoils was then-House GOP leader Tom DeLay's "K Street Project," in which Congress' most powerful Republican basically told corporations and trade associations, "If you want your legislation passed, your voice heard on Capitol Hill, hire GOP lobbyists and donate to GOP campaigns." Even by Washington standards, this was pretty brazen.

One who responded to that offer was an aggressive and resourceful lobbyist named Jack Abramoff, who hired two of DeLay's top aides and began a cash-fueled campaign of lavish trips, luxury boxes and entertainment for lawmakers on behalf of his clients, mostly casino-owning Indian tribes.

On Tuesday, Abramoff plea bargained to three felonies - fraud, tax evasion and conspiracy to bribe Rep. Robert Ney of Ohio, one of the '94 Republican revolutionaries but now comfortably installed as chairman of a House committee.

Earlier, ex-DeLay aide and former Abramoff partner, Michael Scanlon, pleaded guilty to conspiring to bribe members of Congress and, like his old boss, he too is cooperating with federal prosecutors.

Across Washington, politicians - including President Bush and GOP House Speaker Dennis Hastert - were returning or donating to charity campaign contributions from Abramoff-related donors. And all of Washington, as the saying goes, is waiting for the other shoe to drop.

News accounts say testimony has already implicated half a dozen House and Senate members plus congressional staffers and executive branch officials. The scandal has already peripherally brushed the presidency in September when the White House's chief procurement officer, David Safavian, resigned after being charged with lying and obstruction in the Abramoff probe.

Although some Democrats may have been involved, this scandal is so far largely a Republican one. The party's image was further tarnished recently when GOP Rep. Randy Cunningham resigned after pleading guilty to accepting $2.4 million in bribes from defense contractors in an unrelated case.

"Revolution" was always a grandiose term to describe the GOP's congressional takeover, but it does seem to prove the adage that revolutionaries eventually become the people they rebelled against.

The Washington Post has called this "the biggest corruption scandal to infect Congress in a generation." Whether "biggest" remains to be seen, but influence-peddling bids fair to be the capital's oldest scandal. They came to do good. Stayed to do well. And some got indicted.


Contact Dale McFeatters at McFeattersD(at)
Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service,

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