According to superstition, bad things happen in threes. I’m sure the Republican Party only wishes that were true, because as of last week, they are now dealing with four ethics problems.
Most recently, House Majority Leader Tom DeLay has been indicted on charges that he had violated state campaign finance laws. DeLay is being accused of funneling corporate donations to individual candidates, which is illegal under Texas law. DeLay’s defense is that the $190,000 he gave to these candidates is not the same $190,000 he received from corporations.
Since DeLay does not have much of a defense, he has resorted to typical Republican tactics, such as trying to undermine anyone who appears against him. In this case, DeLay has called prosecutor Ronnie Earle – Travis County District Attorney – a “partisan fanatic.” While it is true that Earle is a Democrat, he is hardly a fanatic. In fact, throughout his career, Earle has prosecuted more Democrats than Republicans of violations by a 12-3 margin. Earle even prosecuted himself once for failing to report a contribution on time and paid a fine of over $200.
Additionally, DeLay – a.k.a. “The Hammer”- is under investigation by the House Ethics Committee for improperly accepting gifts from lobbyists.
DeLay does not seem to be the only liability to the “Party of Morals,” as Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist is under investigation as well. Frist had millions of dollars in holdings in the Hospital Corporation of America, a giant hospital chain founded by his family. Frist has always denied that there is a conflict of interest between his holdings and votes on health-care matters. After almost 11 years of being a Senator with these holdings Frist suddenly decided that there was a conflict of interest and promptly sold all of his stock. The timing of this sale was quite suspect, as shortly after the sale the stock price fell nine percent.
His conflict of interest defense is a bit confusing because the conflict has existed for over a decade and now Frist is in his last year of being a Senator.
As if having both Majority Leaders in trouble was not enough, special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald seems to be making progress in the Valerie Plame case. Two years ago someone leaked the secret agent’s name, blowing her cover, in an effort to take revenge on her husband, Joseph Wilson, for speaking out against the Bush Administration. Recently, Dick Cheney’s Chief of Staff, I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby admitted to being reporter Judith Miller’s confidential source, after Miller had spent the past three months in jail protecting his identity. Currently, Fitzgerald’s investigation focuses on Libby as well as Karl Rove, though both have denied leaking Plame’s name to anyone.
The fourth concern for Republicans is the indictment of prominent lobbyist Jack Abramoff. He is under investigation for several different crimes, the main allegation being that he bilked Native American tribes out of tens of million of dollars. Abramoff was being paid to lobby for legalized gambling for the tribes, but was actually working against their causes at the same time. Abramoff, who is under investigation for other federal fraud and conspiracy crimes, has close connections with DeLay and Republican Representative Bob Ney of Ohio. DeLay even referred to Abramoff as a “close friend” and the two have taken several trips together, including a golf outing in Scotland.
Furthermore, former White House official David Safavian has been arrested and charged with making false statements and obstructing a federal investigation in relation to the aforementioned golf trip in Scotland.
Perhaps if the Republican Party had more prominent members who actually embodied the morals they preach, then they could spend less time worrying about ethics scandals and more time governing effectively.
Daga can be reached at email@example.com.