- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Republican corruption — not the Iraq war — drove more to vote Democratic in the election. Exit polls indicate two-thirds of voters claimed the war in Iraq prompted them to vote for Democrats; however, three-fourths voted for Democrats out of a disgust over “corruption and scandals” exhibited by Republicans in power.

More than half of voters were dissatisfied with the way Republican leaders dealt with Rep. Mark Foley for his liaisons with congressional pages. These voters chose Democrats by a 3-1 margin. This column urged Speaker Dennis Hastert to step down as speaker. Had he done so rather than appoint a commission — which has yet to report its findings — results might be different.

In 1887, Lord Acton wrote, “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Mr. Hastert had absolute power, but did not use it to expose Mr. Foley a year ago or to resign when the issue surfaced. In a democracy, such power is short-lived.

There have been many recent forms of corruption:

(1) House Majority Leader Tom DeLay of Texas, the No. 2 House Republican, was forced to resign over indictments for improper fund-raising and taking favors from Lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Similarly, Rep. Robert Ney, Ohio Republican, pleaded guilty last month to conspiracy and false statements for trading official acts for campaign contributions and lavish meals by Abramoff. Republicans who stood in for the two were defeated by Democrats.

(2) Sen. Conrad Burns, Montana Republican, took money from Abramoff to pressure the Interior Department to award a $3 million grant to an Indian tribe, an Abramoff client — dismissed its importance, saying “We are just moving on.” Right. On to forced retirement, after being defeated narrowly by Jon Tester.

(3) Mr. Tester said a sexual scandal was partly responsible for his easy primary victory over a better-known, better-financed rival, two-term State Auditor John Morrison, after the Billings Gazette reported Mr. Morrison had an affair with a woman who married a man investigated by Mr. Morrison.

(4) Rep. Curt Weldon, Pennsylvania Republican, apparently in a safe district, was defeated 57-43 percent after being investigated by the FBI for performing favors for a foreign-controlled business that employed his daughter. Another safe Pennsylvania Republican, Don Sherwood, lost after his former mistress charged he choked her. Similarly, Rep. John Sweeney of New York fell after being embarrassed by a police report he had roughed up his wife.

(5) Ohio Gov. Bob Taft, great-grandson of a president and Supreme Court chief justice, grandson and son of U.S. senators, squandered his family reputation by pleading no contest to four misdemeanors involving a failure to report gifts from lobbyists. The scandal “provided blowout wins for Democrats,” Ted Strickland trouncing Republican J. Kenneth Blackwell for governor and Sherrod Brown over U.S. Sen. Mike DeWine, said the Cincinnati Enquirer.

(6) The Republican named to compete for Mr. Foley’s seat was defeated.

(7) Republicans were unable to use similar scandals to defeat two Democratic representatives being investigated for wrongdoing. Alan R. Mollohan of West Virginia coasted to a 2-1 victory and Louisiana Rep. William Jefferson, who hid $90,000 in a freezer. The FBI seized it. Yet Mr. Jefferson defeated opponents.

Before the election, the Wall Street Journal commented that what made the Abramoff bribery scandal “especially striking — and worrisome for members of Congress — is that some of its transactions occur in Washington every day. Lawmakers often solicit campaign donations from lobbyists, who routinely offer them in hopes of gaining advantage.” What set Abramoff apart was his extravagance, such as lavish trips to Scotland for golf.

A CNN exit poll of voters reported corruption as the top issue compared to terrorism, the economy and Iraq.

The stench of scandal by conservatives helped defeat the first state marriage amendment in Arizona by a 51-49 vote. However, seven states passed them, making a total of 27 states who voted to preserve marriage as being limited to one man and one woman. The votes were Colorado, 56-44 (and a 53-47 defeat of domestic partnerships); Idaho, 63-37; South Carolina, 78-22; South Dakota, 52-48; Virginia, 57-43; Wisconsin, 59-41 and Tennessee, 81-19, which helped Republican Bob Corker narrowly defeat Rep. Harold Ford for Senate. The Virginia amendment made the race between Democrat Jim Webb and Republican George Allen too close to call until well after Election Day.

On Wednesday, Speaker-in-waiting Nancy Pelosi promised, “Democrats intend to lead the most honest, the most open and the most ethical Congress in history.” Sorry, I’ve heard that before — from House Republicans who made the same pledge when they took over in 1994.

Michael J. McManus is a columnist and president of Marriage Savers.

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