Congress shouldn’t be the judge of D.C.’s right to Home Rule
||Washington Post (DC)
||Saturday, April 23, 2011
||Colbert I. King
Stipulations: Marion Barry of the 1990 sting and diverse other shenanigans is one of ours. Yes, some city officials have been caught with their hands in the cookie jar. True, we have some small-bore politicians with huge egos who try to live large on the taxpayer’s dime. And yes, once upon a time we had trouble with our finances and needed a federal bailout.
But when it comes to crime, corruption and troubling conduct, the U.S. Congress makes D.C. officials look like preschoolers.
Let us — courtesy of memory and the Internet — view a few of the ways members of Congress have excelled since Barry’s arrest.
Rep. Jim Traficant, Democrat of Ohio, was convicted on 10 counts of racketeering and corruption, sentenced to eight years in prison and expelled from the House in 2002.
Sen. Robert Torricelli, a Democrat from New Jersey, resigned in 2002, after 14 years in the House and one Senate term, following accusations that he had taken illegal contributions from a Korean businessman.
On Capitol Hill, crime is a bipartisan affair.
Remember Randy “Duke” Cunningham? The California Republican pleaded guilty in 2005 to charges of conspiracy to commit bribery, mail fraud, wire fraud and tax evasion and was sentenced to jail for several years.
How about GOP House member Bob Ney of Ohio? In 2006, Ney pleaded guilty to conspiracy and making false statements as a result of receiving trips in exchange for legislative favors. That got him a 30-month prison sentence.
Congressional wrongdoing is committed in true equal-opportunity spirit, without regard to race, creed, gender or ideology.
Consider Charles Rangel. The senior Democrat from Harlem was found guilty of 11 ethics violations by the House ethics committee and censured by the full House in December, by a vote of 333 to 79.
That was child’s play compared with Rangel’s Congressional Black Caucus colleague William J. Jefferson (D-La.) (he of the $90,000 in cash stashed in a home freezer), who is serving a 13-year sentence for his conviction in 2009 on 11 counts of bribery.
Even the mighty fall from grace.
Tom DeLay, the once all-powerful Republican leader, was sentenced in January to three years after a money-laundering conviction in November.
Red state, blue state — it doesn’t matter.
Let’s check out a few more since Barry’s 1990 bust.
Massachusetts Democratic Rep. Nicholas Mavroules, now deceased, pleaded guilty in 1993 to corruption charges.
Republican Rep. Donald “Buz” Lukensof Ohio was convicted of bribery and conspiracy in 1996.
Mary Rose Oakar, Democrat of Ohio, pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor campaign finance charges in 1997.
The late Illinois Democrat Dan Rostenkowski pleaded guilty to two counts of felony mail fraud and was sentenced in 1996 to 17 months.
Joe Kolter (D-Pa.) pleaded guilty in 1996 and was sentenced to six months for conspiring to defraud taxpayers.
Jay Kim (R-Calif.) pleaded guilty in 1997 to violating federal campaign finance laws and was sentenced to two months’ house arrest.
The list goes on: the congressional post office scandal, the House banking scandal, Jack Abramoff, the Keating Five, Abscam, Koreagate. Sex on Capitol Hill? Meet Paula Parkinson and Fanne Fox.
And Congress, site of the “Convicts Caucus,” would dare judge the District?
One more thing. We’ve balanced our budget 15 years in a row. Can Congress say the same thing?
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