The continuing free-fall of House Republicans

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You would think that the Republicans in the U.S. House would have learned a valuable lesson following the 2006 elections: voters are fed up with arrogance, unbridled spending and corruption.  The GOP lost at least a dozen seats because of some connection (or a perceived connection) to scandal: DeLay, Ney, Foley, Pombo, Sherwood, Sweeney, Hayworth, Ryun, etc.  Others who were either reported to be under investigation or in fact under investigation survived (Lewis, Doolittle, Miller and Calvert of California, Renzi, former Speaker Hastert, Feeney of Florida, to name a few). 

So, after taking a beating in the election, what did the Republicans in the House do?  They elected the same leadership team (Boehner, Blunt et al) that drove them into the mess.  Mike Pence and Arizona’s own John Shadegg (and their message of cleaning up Washington and reforming spending practices) were thoroughly rejected by rank-and-file Republicans in the House.

 Since then, Jerry Lewis, the ranking Republican on the Appropriations committee continues to claim innocence while having spent more then $200K in legal fees.  Doolittle and Renzi have had visits from the FBI.  Feeney has been frantically trying to explain why the FBI is questioning newspapers about what he told them and his former Chief of Staff abruptly resigned as Romney’s deputy campaign manager.

Following the FBI raid of Doolittle’s home, he “temporarily” resigned from his post on the Appropriations Committee (described by Jack Abramoff as the “favor factory”).  Since the Appropriations committee is one of the most sought after panels in Congress, there was no shortage of Republican members lining up for the seat.  And what did our esteemed Republican leadership do?  They gave it to none other than Ken Calvert of California.  Who is Ken Calvert you might ask?

Following his first election in 1992, he was caught by police with a prostitute in his car.  Since this is a family-friendly blog, I won’t quote the police report, which was embarrassingly graphic.  And, the incident wasn’t made public until years later.  Recently, Calvert has been under FBI scrutiny for earmarking transportation and economic development money to an area that happens to include a parcel of land he owned.  He bought the land for about $500K and within a year (following the earmarks) sold it for a cool $1 million.

As one Capitol Hill insider said, “Republicans in the House are the gift that keeps on giving to the Democrats.”  It won’t be long before the Democrats skewer Republicans for putting Calvert on Appropriations.  It is akin to dropping an alcoholic into a pantry full of booze.

And, unfortunately, the end is nowhere in sight. As one long-time hill rat explained to me, the fallout from both the Abramoff scandal and the Duke Cunningham scandal is far from over.  One of the men who bribed Cunningham was only recently indicted himself.  With a long jail sentence hanging over his head, he will be cooperating with the Justice Department.  More than a couple GOP members could get implicated.

Even worse, Jack Abramoff isn’t done yet.  He is currently sitting in prison for a fraud conviction connected to a casino deal in Florida.  He has yet to be sentenced for the innumerable crimes he committed in D.C. through his lobbying practice.  As such, he has a lot of motivation to cooperate with the Feds in order to minimize the extension of his prison term.  D.C. insiders say that there has been a renewed flurry of activity with some of the lower level actors in his scheme.  And, they point out, sitting members of Congress are not the only targets – some former members have yet to put this behind them.

It is pretty evident that House Republicans will buck the historical trends that say the party that loses a large number of seats in an election usually makes some gains in the following election.  I predict that House Republicans lose even more seats in 2008. 

Yes, I know that there are plenty of Democrats who are ethical pygmys – Pelosi, Murtha, Mollohan and William “cold cash” Jefferson among others.  But the media will provide them cover and any criticism leveled at them by Republicans will come across as hypocritical.

Unless House GOP leadership gets serious about cleaning up their own mess, voters will do it for them.


  1. I’m all for throwing the bums out. Maybe this is a good place to start. But as long as you’re doing laundry lists of slimeballs. How about including the Democrats?

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