First off, I hope you had a Merry Christmas and a great New Year’s celebration. As you probably know, it has become something of a tradition for Judicial Watch to comb through its files at the end of each year to determine which politicians earn the dubious distinction of being the most corrupt in Washington. The following is Judicial Watch’s 2008 “top ten” list in alphabetical order.
Judicial Watch, the public interest group that investigates and prosecutes government corruption, today released its 2008 list of Washington’s “Ten Most Wanted Corrupt Politicians.” The list, in alphabetical order, includes:
Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY): Let’s start with the fact that Hillary Clinton is constitutionally ineligible to serve as Secretary of State in the Obama administration. According to the Ineligibility Clause of the United States Constitution, no member of Congress can be appointed to an office that has benefited from a salary increase during the time that Senator or Representative served in Congress. A January 2008 Executive Order signed by President Bush during Hillary Clinton’s current Senate term increased the salary for Secretary of State, thereby rendering Senator Clinton ineligible for the position. (Congressional “fixes” do not address the constitutional issue. Her appointment would be in violation of the U.S. Constitution.) And then, of course, there is the long history of corrupt behavior that follows Hillary wherever she goes, including Chinagate, Filegate, pardons for terrorists, pardons for cash (for her brothers), White House fundraising coffees, Whitewater, Travelgate lies, doing business with the State of Arkansas while her husband was governor, Web Hubbell, smear campaigns, false financial disclosure forms, John Huang, Chinese generals, the Lippo Group, paid sleepovers in the Lincoln Bedroom, cattle futures fraud, and stealing White House furniture. (This corruption is still going strong. In 2008, Hillary also received an illegal foreign campaign contribution in the form of a fundraising concert by music icon Elton John.)
Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT): Question: Which member of the U.S. Senate took the most campaign money from corrupt institutions Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac? Answer: Chris Dodd, Chairman of the Senate Banking Committee. Given this fact there is little reason to wonder why Senator Dodd blocked reform proposals for Fannie and Freddie, calling them “ill advised.” Dodd’s willingness to protect Fannie and Freddie would alone merit a spot on the “ten most corrupt list,” but there is much more. Dodd was also nabbed for accepting preferential treatment and loan terms from Countrywide Financial. The Connecticut Senator admitted earlier this year that he was told in 2003 when he refinanced two properties that he was being placed in Countrywide’s “VIP Program,” but said he believed this was simply a courtesy that had nothing to do with his position in the U.S. Senate. This is either a blatant lie or horribly naïve for a man who has served in the Senate for more than 25 years and currently chairs the Senate Banking Committee that regulates the mortgage industry. We’re not buying it.: Question: Which member of the U.S. Senate took the most campaign money from corrupt institutions Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac? Answer: Chris Dodd, Chairman of the Senate Banking Committee. Given this fact there is little reason to wonder why Senator Dodd blocked reform proposals for Fannie and Freddie, calling them “ill advised.” Dodd’s willingness to protect Fannie and Freddie would alone merit a spot on the “ten most corrupt list,” but there is much more. Dodd was also nabbed for accepting preferential treatment and loan terms from Countrywide Financial. The Connecticut Senator admitted earlier this year that he was told in 2003 when he refinanced two properties that he was being placed in Countrywide’s “VIP Program,” but said he believed this was simply a courtesy that had nothing to do with his position in the U.S. Senate. This is either a blatant lie or horribly naïve for a man who has served in the Senate for more than 25 years and currently chairs the Senate Banking Committee that regulates the mortgage industry. We’re not buying it.
Obama Advisor Valerie Jarrett (D-IL): CBS News once called Chicago politician Valerie Jarrett “the other side of Barack Obama’s brain.” Residents of a housing project in Chicago simply know her as “slumlord.” Jarrett is the former manager of Grove Parc Plaza, a controversial low-income housing project located in Obama’s former state senate district. According to the Boston Globe, the housing complex was considered “uninhabitable by unfixed problems, such as collapsed roofs and fire damage… In 2006, federal inspectors graded the condition of the complex an 11 on a 100-point scale – a score so bad the buildings now face demolition.” According to documents uncovered by Judicial Watch, Jarrett is also linked to a series of other shady real estate scandals involving convicted felon and former Obama fundraiser Antoin “Tony” Rezko. Jarrett has also been caught up in the Blagojevich scandal as Obama’s Candidate #1 for his senate seat. Most of Blagojevich’s corrupt negotiations with the Obama team centered on the possible Jarrett appointment. She remains mum on the scandal.
Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-CA): Rep. Lewis may share a name with a world-renowned comedian, but there’s nothing funny about his addiction to influence peddling and earmarking. Lewis, the senior Republican on the House Appropriations Committee, is under investigation for approving hundreds of millions of dollars in federal projects to benefit clients of one of his best friends, lobbyist and former Congressman Bill Lowery. According to press reports, Lowery, partners in his company and their clients donated approximately 37% of the funds collected by Lewis’ campaign PAC over a six-year period (an estimated $480,000) in return. Lowery has benefited handsomely from his relationship to Lewis. His company more than tripled its income between 1998 and 2004 with help from Lewis, while increasing its client base from 21 clients to 101 over that same time period. Despite these allegations, Lewis maintains his high-ranking position on the House Appropriations Committee.
President-Elect Barack Obama (D-IL): As Barack Obama assumes the presidency he already brings to the White House a large amount of ethical baggage. Obama’s presidential campaign had some of the ethical trimmings of a Chicago ward election. It was marked with enormous corruption issues, ranging from its alliance with the sleazy ACORN operation’s “voter registration” and “get out the vote” efforts to its acceptance of untraceable, and in too many cases, illegal online contributions. There are also Obama’s corrupt dealings with convicted felon Tony Rezko and unrepentant terrorist William Ayers, his below-market rate mortgage loans, his stock dealings and related “earmark” votes in the U.S. Senate, and his missing or non-existent official papers from his years in the Illinois State Senate. His ongoing cover up of his and his team’s role in the Blagojevich “pay-to-play” scandal is ruining his presidency even before he takes the oath of office.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA): Last year House Speaker Nancy Pelosi made the “most corrupt” list for sneaking a $25 million earmark for her husband into a $15 billion Water Resources Development Act passed by Congress. This year, Pelosi ran afoul of federal election law by participating in an illegal advertising campaign funded by Al Gore’s non-profit Alliance for Climate protection. The advertisement featuring Pelosi ran at least 300 times nationally, including in the House speaker’s district, during campaign season, representing an illegal in-kind contribution to her campaign. Perhaps more disturbing than this incident, however, is the fact that Speaker Pelosi has allowed corruption to run rampant in Congress and has ignored serious incidents of crooked behavior within her own party. Pelosi promised a new era of ethics enforcement during the 2006 campaign and she has failed to deliver. Instead, she continues to protect the worst of the worst of political corruption in the House of Representatives.
Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY): Rep. Charles Rangel, Chairman of the powerful Ways and Means Committee, took the unusual step of filing an ethics complaint against himself in 2008 related to scandals involving unpaid taxes and rent-controlled apartments. This act was clearly a publicity stunt, but regardless, the House Ethics Committee took the New York congressman up on his request, and even took things a step further by expanding the scope of its investigation. The initial transgressions that led to the ethics panel probe involve: Rangel’s failure to pay taxes on $75,000 in rental income he earned from his off-shore rental property; his efforts to use his influence to keep hold of highly coveted rent-controlled apartments in Harlem; and misusing his congressional office to fundraise for his private Rangel Center. Now Congress is looking into whether or not Rangel preserved a tax loophole for an oil drilling company in exchange for funding for the Rangel Center as well.
Former Rep. Rick Renzi (R-AZ): Three-term Republican congressman Rick Renzi was indicted by a federal grand jury in 2008 for conspiracy, extortion, money laundering and wire fraud. He allegedly used his influence on a House Natural Resources Committee to orchestrate a land swap with the federal government that financially benefited himself and his associates. The 49-year-old lawmaker, who owns an insurance business, is also charged with embezzling more than $400,000 from insurance clients to fund his congressional campaign. A 26-page federal indictment lays out how the legislator and his business associates conspired to obtain federal government land by swapping land they owned together because the coveted public land sits above underground copper deposits. The indictment says that the congressman concealed nearly $1 million that he made for using his influence to seal the land deals. No wonder Renzi decided to retire this year.
Former Senator Ted Stevens (R-AK): “Uncle Ted” Stevens, the face of Alaska politics for 40 years and formerly the longest serving Republican in the U.S. Senate, was narrowly defeated in his campaign for re-election in November. But that’s the least of his problems. Just days before the November election, Stevens was convicted on seven felony counts for accepting illegal gifts and then lying about it. The establishment of both political parties came to Stevens’ defense, including former Secretary of State Colin Powell and Democratic Senator Daniel Inouye, but to no avail. The jury found Stevens guilty on all counts. And now Stevens faces the possibility of a 35-year prison sentence.
Rep. Don Young (R-AK): Carrying on Alaska’s legacy of corruption, Rep. Don Young is also the subject of an influence peddling investigation. (You may recall it was Young who attempted to push through the $200 million “Bridge to Nowhere” boondoggle.) Well the Justice Department is also investigating the 18-term congressman for his corrupt ties to an oil services company, VECO, ironically the same company that furnished illegal gifts to Senator Ted Stevens. VECO allegedly used golf tournaments and pig roasts to illegally funnel cash to Young, which the 18-term congressman then failed to report on his financial disclosure forms. VECO Vice President Rick Smith has already pleaded guilty to bribing lawmakers to support oil-friendly legislation. The Alaska Republican also added a $10 million earmark for the construction of short stretch of road in Florida that benefited a wealthy campaign contributor. Real estate developer, Daniel Aronoff, had raised $40,000 for Young shortly before the earmark was inserted.
Former Senator John Edwards (D-NC): By day, former North Carolina Senator and Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards repeatedly professed his love for his cancer-stricken wife during media interviews and campaign speeches. By night, Edwards was carrying on an illicit sexual affair with a former campaign consultant, Rielle Hunter. Of course, Edwards denied the affair (calling it “tabloid trash”) even after he was trapped in the basement of the Beverly Hilton hotel by reporters from the National Enquirer during one of his late-night liaisons with Ms. Hunter. While Edwards did finally admit to violating his marriage vows, questions remain as to whether or not he broke any laws. Edwards’ former National Finance Chairman (who just passed away) paid large sums of money to Ms. Hunter, as much as $15,000 per month, in addition to covering Hunter’s moving expenses. Were these “hush funds” paid out of Edwards’ campaign coffers?
Former Rep. William “Dollar Bill” Jefferson (D-LA): William “Dollar Bill” Jefferson was nabbed in a sting operation accepting a $100,000 bribe from an FBI informant to broker business deals in Africa. During his conversation with the informant, who was wired, Jefferson famously remarked, “All these notes we’re writing to each other, as if the FBI is watching.” Well, the FBI was watching (and listening) and during a subsequent search of Jefferson’s home, investigators found $90,000 in cash stuffed in the congressman’s freezer. (The marked bills were later recovered by federal authorities.) Jefferson allegedly intended to use the money to bribe a Nigerian official over a business deal that would have enriched himself and his family. Jefferson was widely expected to return to Congress despite these serious allegations. However, in a December 2008 special election surprise, voters decided instead to send “Dollar Bill” into retirement.