GOP has some ethical questions, too

Republicans are pushing scandals involving House Democrats, but their own members have some as well

Published March 5, 2010 6:52PM (EST)

This hasn't been a great week for Democratic claims to be running the most ethical Congress in history. Rep. Charlie Rangel, D-N.Y., was forced to step down as chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, and Rep. Eric Massa, D-N.Y., announced he wouldn't seek reelection -- due to health reasons, but also amidst questions about allegations he sexually harassed a member of his staff. (UPDATE: Massa will now, reportedly, resign on Monday.) 

Still, that doesn't exactly mean Republicans have clean hands themselves. Democrats won the House majority in 2006 in part by running against what they called a "culture of corruption" in the GOP establishment. The villains in that election -- people like ex-Rep. Duke Cunningham, R-Calif., ex-Rep. Tom DeLay, R-Texas and ex-Rep. Mark Foley, R-Fla. -- may be gone. But quite a few Republican lawmakers who are still in the House have come under scrutiny of their own. The House Ethics Committee doesn't confirm whether it's looking into members, but news reports have made clear ethical questions aren't only a Democratic problem.

Here are just a handful of members whom you probably won't hear the GOP talking about quite so loudly as they discuss Rangel in the months before the November elections:

  • Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Texas: The chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, Sessions faced questions last year about a $1.6 million earmark he won for an Illinois company to make blimps, even though the company had no experience in the blimp-making business. A former Sessions aide had been paid nearly $500,000 to lobby for the firm. He also appears to have closer ties to disgraced banker Allen Stanford than he's interested in discussing.
  • Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska: Yes, Young is still in Congress, even though he has been the subject of at least two recent federal criminal investigations. One involved a $10 million earmark for a Florida company Young dropped into a 2006 bill just before it passed; another dealt with a broad investigation into political corruption in Alaska, tied to the (ultimately flawed) case that led to former Sen. Ted Stevens's defeat.
  • Rep. Nathan Deal, R-Ga.: Deal is leaving Congress to run for governor of Georgia. But even conservatives have pointed out that he's also the subject of a House ethics investigation into contracts between a business he owns and the state government.
  • Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn.: Blackburn admitted to federal elections officials in 2008 she had failed to report $286,278 in campaign expenditures over her time in Congress, as well as $102,044 in contributions she had never disclosed. Some of the unreported expenditures were payments to her daughter and her son-in-law.
  • Rep. Jerry Lewis, R-Calif.: Lewis was investigated by federal agents four years ago as part of the same investigation that led Cunningham to plead guilty to taking bribes. He's also been investigated for his relationship with a lobbying firm, the clients of which Lewis helped obtain millions of dollars in earmarks.


By Mike Madden

Mike Madden is Salon's Washington correspondent. A complete listing of his articles is here. Follow him on Twitter here.

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2010 Elections Charlie Rangel D-n.y. U.s. House Of Representatives