After spending the midterm election campaign decrying "the Republican culture of corruption [that] has pervaded Congress," presumptive House Speaker Nancy Pelosi chose the looming race for House majority leader as the first opportunity to wield her considerable influence within the Democratic caucus. What a surprise: Mrs. Pelosi, the quintessential far-left San Francisco Democrat, embraced the candidacy of Pennsylvania Rep. John Murtha. He's that old "unindicted co-conspirator" from the 1980 Abscam scandal. Mrs. Pelosi now seems poised to oust fellow California Democrat Jane Harman from the party's top post on the House Intelligence Committee in favor of Florida Rep. Alcee Hastings, whom, as a sitting federal judge in 1988, Mrs. Pelosi joined 412 House colleagues in voting to impeach.
After then-U.S. District Judge Hastings was acquitted in 1983 in a criminal trial involving a $150,000 bribery scheme, conspiracy and obstruction of justice, a special investigative committee of the federal judiciary concluded that Judge Hastings had lied and fabricated evidence to win acquittal. The panel recommended impeachment.
In 1988 Rep. John Conyers Jr., the Democrat from Michigan who will become chairman of the House Judiciary Committee in January, presided over the Hastings impeachment inquiry as chairman of the Criminal Justice Subcommittee. According to Congressional Quarterly, Mr. Conyers later told colleagues that he had carefully searched for any hints of racism in the case against Mr. Hastings, who, like Mr. Conyers, is black. But Mr. Conyers said he could not find any. Interestingly, Mr. Hastings insisted at a meeting this summer with the editorial board of The Washington Times that the judicial inquiry into his conduct was teeming with racism, including the use of a nasty racial epithet by one of the white panel members in an elevator occupied by Mr. Hastings and his mother. Mr. Hastings acknowledged that he had never bothered to mention the details of the racist campaign against him to Mr. Conyers, who, remember, later said he had searched in vain for such racist motives. It is clear that a quarter century after the bribery scheme unfolded, Mr. Hastings is now actively playing the race card. This is truly reprehensible.
Arguably possessing the most corrupt ($150,000 in 1981 is worth $335,000 in today's purchasing power) and disreputable background of any member of Congress today, Mr. Hastings was convicted in 1989 by the Democratic-controlled Senate for conspiracy to accept a bribe and for making numerous false statements at his 1983 criminal trial. The Senate convictions booted him from the federal bench. It is bad enough that the good folks of Florida have chosen to send an impeached judge to Congress. It is beyond the pale that Speaker-to-be Pelosi is now considering naming such a politician to be the chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. "Culture of corruption." Democrats ought to face the mirror.