Over the course of the summer, Howard Dean worked hard to get voters to associate the Republican Party with a “culture of corruption” in Washington. The message didn’t get much traction then — in part because Democrats in Congress didn’t push it out of fear that it would come back to bite them, and in part because voters had bigger concerns about George W. Bush and the party he leads.
The message is getting through today.
Just after news of Tom DeLay’s indictment broke this afternoon, White House press secretary Scott McClellan appeared for his daily press briefing, where a reporter asked him on live television if a “stench of corruption” now swirls around the president and his party. McClellan dismissed the question as relying on a “broad characterization” but acknowledged that there are “instances” and “individual situations” where “the legal process” will need to proceed.
That’s certainly fair to say.
From Texas to Florida to Ohio, from K Street to Congress to the inner circles of the Bush administration itself, the Republican Party is suddenly — or maybe not so — looking like the party of scandal. You can’t keep up without a scorecard. Here’s ours.
Tom DeLay: The House majority leader was indicted today on a felony charge that he conspired to launder corporate campaign contributions through the national Republican Party in Washington and back to legislative candidates in Texas.
Bill Frist: The Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission are both investigating the Senate majority leader’s sale of shares in his family’s healthcare business just before the stock’s value plummeted in June.
Jack Abramoff: The Republican super-lobbyist, known to have bragged about his contacts with Karl Rove, was indicted in Florida last month along with his business partner on wire fraud and conspiracy fraud charges related to their purchase of a fleet of gambling boats. This week, three men were arrested — including two who received payments from Abramoff’s business partner — in the Mafia-style killing of the man from whom Abramoff and his partner purchased the gambling boats.
David Safavian: The president’s chief procurement officer stepped down two weeks ago and was arrested last week on charges of lying to investigators and obstructing a separate federal investigation into Abramoff’s dealings in Washington. Some Republicans who received campaign contributions from Safavian are divesting themselves of his money now.
Timothy Flanigan: The president’s nominee to serve as deputy attorney general has announced that he will have to recuse himself from the Abramoff investigation if he is confirmed because he hired Abramoff to help the company where he works — scandal-ridden Tyco International Ltd. — lobby DeLay and Rove on tax issues.
Michael Brown: The president’s FEMA director resigned earlier this month amid complaints about his handling of Hurricane Katrina and charges that he and other FEMA officials got their jobs based on political connections and cronyism rather than competence or qualifications.
Bob Taft: The Republican governor of Ohio pleaded guilty last month to criminal charges based on his failure to report gifts as required by state law, among them golfing trips paid for by Tom Noe, a major Republican fundraiser who is the subject of his own scandal regarding the state’s investment in $50 million in rare coins, some of which have mysteriously gone missing.
Randy “Duke” Cunningham: A federal grand jury in San Diego is investigating allegations that the veteran Republican congressman received financial favors from a defense contractor who allegedly bought Cunningham’s house at an inflated price and let him live for free on the contractor’s 42-foot yacht.
Ernie Fletcher: The Republican governor of Kentucky has refused to answer questions from a grand jury investigating whether his administration based hiring decisions on political considerations rather than merit. Fletcher has pardoned nine people in the probe — including the chairman of Kentucky’s Republican party — and fired members of his staff.
George Ryan: Federal prosecutors made their opening statements this week in the criminal trial of the former Republican governor of Illinois. Ryan and a friend, Chicago insurance adjuster Lawrence Warner, are charged with racketeering conspiracy, mail fraud, tax fraud and lying to federal agents.
And then there’s Karl Rove and Scooter Libby. The grand jury investigating the outing of Valerie Plame is scheduled to complete its work in late October. While neither Rove nor Libby is apparently a “target” of the investigation — and while the “corruption” in Plamegate is moral rather than financial — both men are known to have played a role in revealing or confirming Plame’s identity in conversations with reporters, which may be a crime under federal law.