No They Di'n'!
"The Mark Foley affair is so simple and so human," wrote Lenore Skenazy in her New York Daily News column, "it's like a Cliffs.Notes version of all the other Republican scandals...." Foley, Republican congressman from Florida's 16th district since 1995, resigned on September 29, 2006 as ABC News reported that he had exchanged sexually explicit electronic messages with a teenage boy who had worked on Capitol Hill. The messages were also posted on the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington's web site (CREW). With only this information, the matter might seem on the order of any number of congressional sex scandals, from Bob Packwood to Gary Condit. What makes the affair emblematic of the Bush administration is that Foley was Chairman of the House Caucus on Missing and Exploited Children. As Newsweek put it "Rep. Mark Foley helped exploited children by day. A slew of e-mails suggests he exploited them by night."
While there's no indication that the Bush administration or Republican congressional leadership arranged for Foley to head the caucus, ignoring personality traits that should have disqualified him, there's a growing body of evidence that the leadership knew for some time about Foley's transgressions. Moreover, according to a "friend" of Foley's who spoke The New Republic's Ryan Lizza, Foley was ready to retire in 2006 and become a lobbyist, but "the White House and Rove gang" pressured him to run, suggesting that it would "enhance his success as a lobbyist."
The Foley scandal illustrates two key characteristics of the the current Republican government. First, as the News's Skenazy put it Republicans are "exposed" as "the party that really doesn't care about all the things it says it does: mom, apple pie, morals. All it cares about is staying in power." Second, the matter highlights the administration's pattern of designating officials for jobs they are either singularly unqualified to do, or for which a reasonable person might assume they would be disqualified.
Foley is only the latest Republican legislator, official, or adviser to resign in scandal. The New York Daily News recently reported that there is so much corruption on Capitol Hill that the FBI had to triple the size of its squad investigating lobbyists, lawmakers, and influence peddlers. A key figure in the influence peddling scandals is, of course, convicted former über-lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Abramoff pleaded guilty in January 2006 to fraud, public corruption, and tax evasion, in connection with his purchase of a fleet of gambling boats in Florida. The businessman who sold the fleet to Abramoff was later killed in what appeared to be a gangland execution. Abramoff's efforts to direct money to lawmakers and others in government, in exchange for support for matters benefiting his clients, are still under investigation.
Abramoff had close ties to members of the administration and Congress, including former Majority Leader Tom DeLay. DeLay's former press secretary, Michael Scanlon, and top aide Tony Rudy, have both pled guilty to conspiracy charges related to their dealings with Abramoff. Court records indicate that Scanlon and Abramoff conspired to "corruptly offer and provide things of value, including money, meals, trips and entertainment to federal public officials in return for agreements to perform official acts." Rudy provided inside information to Abramoff while Abramoff was lobbying against an anti-gambling bill on behalf of his client, eLottery. If the bill had passed, it could have put eLottery out of business. Abramoff arranged for eLottery to pay $25,000 to a foundation that hired Rudy's wife Lisa as a consultant. Abramoff later hired Rudy himself as a lobbyist. DeLay was apparently not mentioned in either Scanlon's or Rudy's plea deal, but was reportedly persuaded to resign from Congress when Rudy pleaded guilty in late March 2006. DeLay was indicted in September 2005 on apparently unrelated charges involving Texas campaign finance law. (See The Dubya Report's "Tom DeLay: Poster Boy for the New Republican Party".)
Since the time that reports of Abramoff's contacts with the White House first surfaced, the administration has sought to dismiss or minimize any appearance of influence. When Secret Service logs of White House visitors were released in May 2006, in response to a suit from conservative legal group Judicial Watch, they showed only two visits by Abramoff. A report from the Republican-controlled House Government Affairs Committee released in late September, however, found that Abramoff had as many as 485 contacts with the White House, of which 345 were in person. Contacts included meetings with former White House political director, now Republican National Committee chair, Ken Mehlman, and 9 with Bush's chief political adviser Karl Rove.
The report also outlined that Abramoff would arrange for his clients to meet with White House insiders, such as Mehlman or Rove, by coordinating third-party meetings through his college buddies Grover Norquist or Ralph Reed. Reed, who lost the 2006 Republican primary for Lieutenant Governor of Georgia to state Senator Casey Cagle, received more than $2.5 million in 2001 alone from Abramoff clients and affiliated entities. Investigators have suggested that Norquist allowed Abramoff to transfer money through Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform lobbying group to drum up opposition to the anti-gambling bill.
Republicans including Bush have attempted to portray the Abramoff scandal as bipartisan. "It seems to me that he [Abramoff] was an equal money dispenser, that he was giving money to people in both political parties," Bush told Fox News in January. A study by Dwight L. Morris and Associates, a for-profit firm that specializes in campaign finance research and has been employed by many media outlets, however, found that Abramoff's tribal clients contributed twice as much to Republicans as to Democrats, and that their contributions to Democrats dropped after they hired him, while contributions to Republicans more than doubled.
Among the Foley matter, the Abramoff scandal, and other corruption investigations, it's hard to know where to begin. Here's a recap of some of the more morally or ethically challenged Republican members of Congress1:
- Rep. Don Sherwood, R-PA
- In April 2005 a The Wilkes Barre Times Leader published a police report stating that DC police had been called to Sherwood's apartment by Cynthia Ore, who claimed that in the course of a back rub Sherwood had tried to choke her. Sherwood, married and the father of three grown daughters, was 64 at the time. He admitted to the five-year long affair with the Peruvian-born Ore, who was then 29. No criminal charges were filed, but Ore brought a civil suit alleging that Sherwood had physically abused her, and that the police had not taken her complaint seriously. Sherwood has denied the abuse. The affair appears to be affecting Sherwood's re-election campaign this year. A recent poll by the Philadelphia Daily News found Sherwood trailing his Democratic opponent 48 percent to 39 percent. "The affair is the single driving issue in the campaign," poll director Terry Madonna told the News. Sherwood's district had been considered a "safe" Republican seat. Republican strength in the district is evidenced by Republican Senator Rick Santorum leading Democratic opponent Bob Casey by 5% there, while an October 23 statewide poll found Casey leading 49% to 42%. Earlier this month, during "National Character Counts Week," Bush stumped for Sherwood, praising his "record of accomplishment."
- Dennis Hastert, R-IL
- Hastert is the perfect link between morals corruption and influence-peddling. Hastert has been implicated in a cover-up of the Foley matter. He claims that he first learned on September 29 of Foley's sexually-explicit electronic messages to high-school aged congressional pages. Rep. Thomas Reynolds, R-NY, who chairs the National Republican Congressional Committee, has said that he informed Hastert earlier this year about what Republicans have called the "overly friendly" messages dating back to the fall of 2005. Majority Leader Boehner was apparently also informed, according to the New York Times. The page who reported receiving the inappropriate messages informed Rep. Rodney Alexander, R-LA, for whom he worked. Alexander called Hastert's office for guidance, and was referred to the clerk of the House, who supervises the page program. The clerk at the time was Jeff Trandahl, an openly gay Republican, who referred the matter to the head of the Page Board, Rep. John Shimkus, R-IL. Majority Leader Boehner's spokesman, Kevin Madden, acknowledged that Boehner had discussed the matter with Rep. Alexander in the spring of 2006. Foley aide Kirk Fordham testified before the House ethics committee that he had warned Hastert's office about Foley at least three years ago, after Foley had appeared at the page dormitory after hours, apparently drunk. Matthew Loraditch, who was a page in 2001-2002 and is now president of the Page Alumni Association, told ABC News that pages in his class were warned about Foley by a supervisor in the House Clerk's office. According to Loraditch, some pages who "interacted" with Foley were reluctant to report the incidents for fear of retaliation.
Investigative reporter Wayne Madsen reported in his September 30/October 1 column that Hastert himself had been "the subject of persistent rumors about inappropriate contact with male members of his high school wrestling team," while working as a history teacher and coach from 1964 to 1980 in suburban Chicago.
On the finance side, between 2001 and 2004 Hastert received more than $100,000 in campaign contributions from Abramoff's firm and clients. Hastert joined with ex-Majority Leader Tom Delay, Roy Blunt, and Eric Cantor, R-VA, in urging Interior Secretary Gale Norton to interpret gambling law in a way that prevented the Jena Choctaw Indians from opening a casino near one operated by the Coushatta Indians, an Abramoff client.
- Rep. Bob Ney, R-OH
- On September 13, 2006 Ney pleaded guilty to performing official acts in exchange for campaign contributions, and to taking thousands of dollars in gambling chips from a businessman in exchange for intervening on his behalf with the State Department. Ney admitted inserting four amendments into a 2002 election "reform" bill specifically to benefit Abramoff clients, inserting comments into the Congressional Record intended to assist Abramoff's attempted purchase of a casino cruise line, and helping an Abramoff client win a multi-million dollar contract to provide wireless networking services on Capitol Hill. Ney is the eighth person and first member of congress to be convicted in the Abramoff scandal. He faces a maximum of 10 years in prison.
- Sen. Conrad Burns, R-MT
- Burns has the unique distinction of having received more money from Abramoff, clients, and associates between 2000 and 2002 than any other member of Congress. The contributions totaled $137,000 or more than 42% of the total raised by Burns's political action committee (PAC). Apparently in return, Burns pressured the Department of the Interior to direct $3 million in funds for poor tribal schools to the Saginaw Chippewa tribe of Michigan, "one of the wealthiest tribes in the country" according to CREW. When that effort was unsuccessful, Burns earmarked funds for the Saginaw Chippewa in a 2004 appropriations bill. Burns's chief of staff, Will M. Brooke, who took part in an Abramoff-funded junket to the Super Bowl and a gambling cruise ship in 2001, left in 2003 to work for Abramoff. Senate rules prohibit members and staff from accepting "gifts of personal hospitality" and require documentation of expense reimbursement that were not filed for the 2001 trip.
- Rep. John Doolittle, R-CA
- Doolittle has described Abramoff as a "good friend," accepted campaign contributions from him, like Ney, intervened with the Department of the Interior on behalf of Abramoff's tribal clients, and helped Abramoff win a lobbying contract from the Marianas Islands by endorsing a sympathetic politician. From 2002 - 2004, Abramoff paid Doolittle's wife a retainer fee for work as an "event planner." Doolittle also pays his own wife a commission for work as a campaign fundraiser. Despite Abramoff's indictment and guilty plea, Doolittle has denied any wrongdoing, and refused to return the $14,000 in campaign contributions he received from Abramoff. Nonetheless, a recent Federal Election Commission (FEC) report revealed that Doolittle has paid more than $38,000 in legal fees to the Virginia law firm Williams Mullen to represent him in conversations with the Justice Department concerning the Abramoff investigation.
- Rep. Dick Pombo, R-CA
- Pombo is chair of the House Resources Committee (as in "natural resources"), but has spent his entire career trying to abolish the Endangered Species Act. Last year he sponsored the "Threatened and Endangered Species Recovery Act" that would have eliminated all federal protection of endangered wildlife by 2015. An amended version of the bill passed the House, but has not emerged from the Committee on Environment and Public Works, to which it was referred in the Senate. Pombo has received $35,000 in campaign donations from Abramoff. Pombo also reportedly paid $357,000, or 25% of funds raised by his PAC, to his wife and brother.
- Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham
- Cunningham resigned from Congress in November 2005, pleading guilty to receiving $2 million in bribes from military contractors. He is currently serving an eight-year jail sentence. A congressional report released on October 17 revealed that Cunningham coerced House Intelligence Committee staff to direct more than $70 million in classified federal business to contractors, especially his two friends Brent R. Wilkes and Mitchell J. Wade. On February 23, 2006, Wade pleaded guilty to conspiracy, tax evasion, corrupting defense officials, and election fraud. He also told investigators that Wilkes had an arrangement with a limousine company, that in turn had an arrangement with an escort service, that would pick up Cunningham and a prostitute, and bring them to a suite that Wilkes maintained at the Watergate Hotel.
In principle the Intelligence Committee authorizes classified expenditures and the Defense Subcommittee puts them into appropriations bills; in practice, however, the Appropriations Committee originates spending requests on its own and the Intelligence Committee depends on the Appropriations Committee for its funding. Because he sat on both the Defense Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee and the House Intelligence Committee, Cunningham exerted influence on the entire classified budget process. While the complete report on Cunningham remains classified, the summary that was made public revealed that a "corrupt conspiracy" between Cunningham and Wade "appears to have ... seriously impeded" Intelligence Committee oversight of a Pentagon counterintelligence program. Civil liberties advocates have complained that the program enabled the Pentagon to spy on US citizens under the guise of protecting domestic military bases.
- Rep. Jerry Lewis, R-CA
- The FBI has issued 10 subpoenas involving Lewis's relationship to his best friend, lobbyist Bill Lowery. Lewis is chair of the House Appropriations Committee, overseeing approximately $900 billion in annual federal spending. Anyone seeking contracts or funding has to go through Lowery's firm, in what CREW's Melanie Sloan called "a direct relationship." Since 2000, Lowery and his clients have contributed more than $480,000 to Lewis's campaigns, Lowery's firm has made more than $5 million, and Lowery clients have received hundreds of millions in federal funds. Lowery himself is a former congressman who lost his seat to Randy "Duke" Cunningham in 1992, in part because of an ethics scandal. Lewis has reportedly spent nearly $800,000 in fees for his legal defense.
On October 16 Lewis's Appropriations Committee fired about 60 of its 76 investigators, many of whom were looking into the $62 billion federal aid package to victims of Hurricane Katrina. A Lewis spokesman tried to portray the firings as the result of a bipartisan decision, but a Democratic source told ThinkProgress that Democrats had not been consulted. Whether the action is related to the investigation of Lewis himself remains to be seen. In 2003 Lewis intervened to stop his committee's investigation of the Defense Department's Office of Special Plans, which was the source of much of the misinformation used by the Bush administration to justify the invasion of Iraq.
- Rep. Katherine Harris, R-FL
- Harris received $51,000 in campaign contributions from admitted felon Mitchell Wade, and his corporation MZM, Inc. In Wade's plea agreement, $32,000 of the contributions was identified as illegal. Wade and Harris also met twice at DC restaurant Citronelle, to discuss MZM obtaining funding for a Navy counterintelligence program in Harris's district, and Wade picked up the $2,800 and $3,300 dinner tabs. Some months after the second dinner, Mona Yost resigned from Harris's staff to join MZM, where one of her responsibilities was drafting the $10 million proposal for the counterintelligence program Harris and Wade had discussed. Harris submitted a version of the proposal that contained portions of MZM's language to the Defense Appropriations subcommittee, but it was rejected. Harris's relationship to Wade is the subject of a federal investigation and she has received a grand jury subpoena.
In 1994, Harris's campaign received $20,000 from Riscorp, a Sarasota-based insurer that contributed to many Florida political campaigns. An investigation revealed that Riscorp executives required employees to contribute to political campaigns, and then reimbursed them, which is illegal. At the time, investigators described Harris's former campaign manager as a "co-conspirator," and uncovered a memo showing that the Harris campaign had sought to conceal the source of the donations by altering addresses on checks. Harris's opponent in the Florida senatorial campaign, Sen. Bill Nelson, was Florida insurance commissioner at the time, and signed an order requiring Riscorp to repay $383,500 -- an amount equivalent to Riscorp's illegal contributions. A year after Nelson's order, Harris donated $20,000 to charity.
- Rep. Curt Weldon, R-PA
- Weldon is chair of the House Armed Services Committee. Companies with business before his committee have reportedly channeled approximately $1 million in lobbying deals to his daughter, and sponsored his son's race-car operation. On October 16 the FBI searched six locations connected to Weldon as part of what officials called "an intensifying corruption inquiry." One of the sites searched was the Florida office of a Russian natural gas company that had hired Weldon's daughter's firm, Solutions North America, for public relations work.
- Rep. Roy Blunt, R-MO
- In 2003 Blunt tried to insert a last minute provision into the House bill creating the Department of Homeland Security. The provision would have made it more difficult to sell cigarettes over the Internet, and cracked down on the sale of contraband cigarettes. Blunt's action surprised members of the Republican leadership, who were unaware of his intentions and did not support the provision. Blunt told the Washington Post that he came to advocate the last-minute provision after a conversation with John F. Scruggs, vice president of government affairs for Altria Group Inc., the parent company of Philip Morris. Blunt later married Philip Morris lobbyist Abigail Perlman, divorcing his wife of 31 years. Philip Morris/Altria is Blunt's largest campaign contributor, donating more than $270,000 to various PAC's connected to him. Earlier in 2003 Blunt joined with Rep. Ernie Fletcher, R-KY in opposing legislation that could have authorized FDA regulation of tobacco. He also inserted into a Senate bill a provision that would have blocked a competitor to UPS and FedEx from expanding US operations. Blunt's son Andrew works as a lobbyist for UPS in Missouri; UPS and FedEx have contributed $120,000 since 2001, according to FEC data first reported by the Wall Street Journal.
While what the Brookings Institution's Thomas Mann called its "lieutenants" in Congress pandered and philandered, the Bush administration has conducted a major assault on effective government. In the words of Paul Krugman, its agencies are "crippled by politicization, cronyism and/or the departure of experienced professionals." Some officials, like the first three, below, have been implicated and more in the Abramoff scandal. Others are "foxes guarding the hen house," while others are simply dangerously incompetent.2
- David Safavian
- Safavian was chief of staff for the General Services Administration -- the purchasing arm of the federal government, and also worked in the White House budget office. Safavian, who worked previously for Abramoff, was arrested on September 19, 2005, charged with lying to federal investigators. He was convicted on June 20, 2006 on four of five counts of lying and obstruction. He apparently gave Abramoff information about GSA projects, and provided guidance in dealing with the agency. Investigators believe Safavian helped Abramoff get control of two federally managed properties in the DC area. Safavian also made false statements about a golf junket to Scotland with Abramoff in 2002 aboard a private jet. He was sentenced on October 27, 2006 to 18 months in prison.
- Susan Ralston
- Ralston resigned on October 2, 2006 from her job as a key aide to Karl Rove after a congressional report showed that she accepted what the Washington Post called "sometimes pricey" gifts, including tickets to sporting and entertainment events, in return for passing "inside White House information" to Abramoff. (Rules prohibit White House officials from accepting gifts worth more than $20 from anyone doing business with the government.) Ralston was the first official working in the West Wing of the White House to lose her job in connection with the Abramoff scandal. The information Ralston passed to Abramoff apparently derived from her function as an organizer of presidential events, and concerned procedural matters, social events, and possible administration appointments. Ralston, who was previously an assistant to Abramoff, functioned in the White House as an intermediary between Abramoff and Rove. In one series of contacts detailed in the report, Abramoff sought support for Iraqi bonds apparently issued by one of his clients. The report implies that Ralston referred the matter to the National Security Council, but that the council regarded the proposal with suspicion. The congressional report noted 66 Abramoff contacts with the White House, of which more than half were with Ralston; Abramoff's lobbyist colleagues made an additional 69 contacts.
- J. Steven Griles
- Veteran energy lobbyist Griles earned nearly $600,000 a year before joining the Department of the Interior in June 2001. In 2003 Griles received a job offer from Jack Abramoff. Griles claimed to have rejected the offer, but an Abramoff email describes Griles as "ready to leave Interior and will most likely be coming to join us," adding that "I expect he will be with us in 90-120 days." Other emails released by Senate investigators document that "the former deputy secretary of the Interior Department had numerous meetings, telephone calls and other contacts with Jack Abramoff concerning the lobbyist's tribal clients," and that Griles "advised Abramoff how to get members of Congress to pressure the department and provided him information about Interior decision-making." In 2004 the Interior Department's inspector general called Griles's term in office an "ethical quagmire," concluding " "Mr. Griles' lax understanding of his ethics agreement and attendant recusals, combined with the lax dispensation of ethics advice given to him, resulted in lax constraint over matters in which the deputy secretary involved himself." Although investigations found no illegalities, Griles resigned in December 2004 to start his own lobbying firm.
- Alice S. Fisher
- Confirmed as Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division in September 2006 after a recess appointment in the summer of 2005, Fisher, like Attorney General Gonzales, has little prosecutorial or trial experience. Her previous job was as a lobbyist for HCA, the healthcare company founded by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist's father. Fisher has also been described as "socially close" to Tom DeLay's defense team. As head of the Criminal Division, Fisher presides over the Abramoff investigation.
- Charles Lambert
- Appointed in 2002, Lambert is the Deputy Under Secretary for USDA's Marketing and Regulatory programs. Before joining the USDA, Lambert worked for 15 years for the National Cattlemen's Beef Association. Despite signing an agreement stating that in his first year at USDA he would "not participate personally and substantially in any particular matter involving specific parties in which [Cattlemen's] is a party or represents a party, unless I am authorized to participate," Lambert met 12 times with members of the association and its affiliates, according to the Denver Post. As a lobbyist for the Cattlemen's Association, and in his position at USDA, Lambert argued against labeling beef with its country of origin. Such labels could help consumers avoid purchasing beef from countries with mad cow disease. According to the Post, more than a dozen top USDA officials have ties to the meat industry. Carol Tucker Foreman, director of the Consumer Federation of America's Food Policy Institute, who served as an assistant USDA secretary in the Carter White House, told the Post, "USDA gives the impression of being a wholly owned subsidiary of America's cattlemen. Their interests rather than the public interests predominate in USDA policy."
- Jeffrey Holmstead
- Holmstead is Assistant Administrator for Air & Radiation at the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA). Before joining the EPA, Holmstead worked at the law firm Latham & Watkins, whose clients included a chemical company and a trade association of utility companies. In January 2004, the EPA issued proposed changes to air pollution regulations that included language from a proposal that Latham & Watkins made to the Bush administration in September 2003. The regulation changes slowed the rate of required reductions in mercury emissions by up to 11 years. While it is not uncommon for lobbyists to suggest language for legislation, the EPA's own spokesperson questioned this instance. "To take something from a source without noting it doesn't seem to be the normal course of business, and it shouldn't have been done," EPA spokeswoman Cynthia Bergman said on behalf of then EPA Administrator Leavitt. Despite calls for an investigation, the mercury emission regulations were eventually issued in March 2005, only to be reissued in May 2006 after petitions from 14 states, five environmental groups, and four Native American tribes.
- Michael Brown
- Head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) until his resignation on September 12, 2005, became what NY Times commentator Paul Krugman called "a symbol of cronyism." Brown succeeded his college buddy Joe Allbaugh, who had been Bush's 2000 campaign manager, and chief of staff when Bush was governor of Texas. When FEMA was consolidated under the Department of Homeland Security, which in principle would have made it more difficult to use the agency to dispense patronage, Allbaugh left to work as a lobbying firm connected to former Republican National Committee chair Haley Barbour. At the time of his nomination, Brown had claimed previous experience in emergency management while serving as "an assistant city manager with emergency services oversight," in Edmond, OK. An investigation by Time revealed that Brown had, in fact, served as assistant to a city manager, and had no supervisory or management function. "The assistant is more like an intern," Claudia Deakins, head of public relations for Edmond, told Time. In fact, as reported by the Washington Post's Spencer Hsu, five of eight top FEMA managers, including Brown, "came to their posts with virtually no experience in handling disasters...." Three -- Brown, Chief of Staff Patrick J. Rhode and Deputy Chief of Staff Brooks D. Altshuler -- had connections to the Bush campaign or the White House advance operation. Two other top jobs were filled by a former Republican governor and a former head of the US Chamber of Commerce. Inexperience at the top of FEMA came under scrutiny in the aftermath of the Hurricane Katrina disaster (see The Dubya Report's "Dubya Does Katrina"). Brown's bio also listed his experience with the International Arabian Horse Association (IAHA). Brown was forced to resign from his position at IAHA in the face of mounting lawsuits.
- Daniel E. Troy
- Former chief counsel for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Troy was instrumental in extending FDA assistance to pharmaceutical corporations in quashing lawsuits over dangerous drug side effects. Troy made the offer to several hundred pharmaceutical attorneys at Washington's Plaza Hotel on December 15, 2003. Under Troy, the FDA also asserted that its authority to regulate drug labeling overrides any state court claims. Before joining the FDA, Troy worked at Wiley, Rein & Fielding, a law and lobbying firm that represented the pharmaceutical industry in challenging FDA regulation of infomercials, and other lawsuits against the agency. He was also an Associate Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. Troy now works for the Washington law firm Sidley Austin.
- Ann-Marie Lynch
- Lynch was appointed deputy assistant secretary in the office of policy at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), which advises the president on consumer issues, including prescription drug policies. A little over a year after her appointment, Lynch's office issued a policy statement asserting that "government-controlled restrictions on the coverage of new drugs could put the future of medical innovation at risk and may retard advances in treatment." The report, dismissed as nonsense by consumer advocates, nonetheless apparently influenced congressional debate over the Medicare prescription drug policy. Lynch reportedly also blocked publication of a number of HHS findings that challenged drug company positions on a range of issues. One blocked report suggested that running the Medicare prescription drug plan through private insurers -- the mechanism that the administration advocated -- would be more expensive than other alternatives, and would not serve rural areas well. In September 2005, Lynch left HHS to head the "Medicare team" at AdvaMed, a trade association representing manufacturers of medical technology.
- Thomas Scully
- Before being hired by the Bush administration in June 2001 to head the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Scully was a lobbyist for the Federation of American Hospitals, a trade association of for-profit hospitals. Eight months later Scully "negotiated" a settlement with the Frist family's HCA, the largest member of the hospital federation. Without going through the Justice department, as would have been standard practice, Scully agreed that HCA could settle its Medicare fraud case for $250 million. In return, HCA was protected from a full review of its financial reports, and from large fines typically imposed in civil fraud cases. HCA eventually paid another $631 million in civil penalties, and $17.5 million to states. Scully subsequently served as the White House negotiator on the Medicare prescription drug bill, which affected the financial interests of five companies with which he was simultaneously negotiating employment. On December 22, 2203 Scully announced that he was going to work for lobbying firm Alson & Bird and investment firm Welsh, Carson, Anderson and Stowe. Both firms have clients in the pharmaceutical and health care industries.
- John Snow
- "Even a conservative government needs an effective Treasury Department," wrote Paul Krugman in September 2005. Yet, "John Snow, who was obviously picked for his loyalty rather than his qualifications, is still Treasury secretary. Less obvious to the public is the hollowing out of the department's expertise. Many experienced staff members have left since 2000, and a number of key positions are either empty or filled only on an acting basis. 'There is no policy,' an economist who was leaving the department after 22 years told the Washington Post, back in 2002. 'If there are no pipes, why do you need a plumber?'" Before joining the Bush administration, Snow was chairman of railroad company CSX. According to Citizens for Tax Justice, although recording a $1 billion profit over the four years prior to Snow's leaving, CSX paid no federal income tax and received $164 million in tax rebates. During Snow's tenure, CSX was among the top 100 political contributors in the country, donating $59 million, 72% to Republicans. Snow left the Treasury department on June 29, 2006
In the aftermath of the 2004 presidential election, Bush political advisor Karl Rove sought to portray the Republican victory as a triumph of "values voters." Rove's claim has since been debunked, but one wonders what "values" the preceding catalog could represent. The Daily News's Skenazy offered one possibility when she suggested that all the Republicans care about is power. For another possibility we turn to that great modern philosopher, Gordon Gekko3:
The point is, ladies and gentleman, that greed -- for lack of a better word -- is good.
Greed is right.
Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit.
Greed, in all of its forms -- greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge -- has marked the upward surge of mankind
And greed -- you mark my words -- will ... save ... that ... malfunctioning corporation called the USA.
There's the quintessential value of the current crop of Republican incumbents.
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Dickinson, Tim "The 10 Worst Congressmen" Rolling Stone 2 Nov. 2006 (Issue)
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Werner, Erica "Doolittle Paid Lawyer to Talk to Agency" Associated Press. 16 Oct. 2006
Johnson, Kevin "House committee dismisses bulk of investigative division" USA Today 19 Oct. 2006
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"Rep. Blunt Plans to Wed Tobacco Lobbyist" Washington Post 11 Sep. 2003
Solomon, John "Lawmakers pressured Interior while getting large donations from Abramoff tribes " Associated Press. 17 Nov. 2005
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Fineman, Howard and Michael Isikoff"The Right's Fight" Newsweek 2 May 2006
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"J. Steven Griles" TPM Muckraker
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Milbank, Dana "During National Character Counts Week, Bush Stumps for Philanderer" Washington Post 19 Oct. 2006
Baker, Peter and James V. Grimaldi "Rove Aide Linked To Abramoff Resigns" Washington Post 7 Oct. 2006
Drajem, Mark "Reed Concedes Georgia Lieutenant Governor Primary to Opponent" Bloomberg. 18 Jul. 2006
Stephanopoulos, George "White House Lashes Out: Congressional Report Finds Convicted Lobbyist Had Contact With Karl Rove, Ken Mehlman" ABC News. 29 Sep. 2006
King, John "White House logs list only 2 Abramoff visits" CNN. 12 May. 2006
Becker, Jo and Charles R. Babcock "Prostitution Alleged In Cunningham Case" Washington Post 29 Apr. 2006
Sauer, Maddy and Anna Schecter "GOP Staff Warned Pages About Foley in 2001" ABC News. 1 Oct. 2006
"Sharing the Riches of War in Iraq" Editorial. NY Times 24 Jul. 2006
Glanz, James and Floyd Norris "Report Says Iraq Contractor Is Hiding Data From U.S." NY Times 28 Oct. 2006
Roche, Walter F. Jr. "Bush's family profits from 'No Child' act" LA Times 22 Oct. 2006
1A notable omission from our list of legislators is Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist. The FEC fined Frist $11,000 for violating federal law when his 1994 and 2000 campaign committees failed to report a $1.44 million loan that he had signed for. Frist has also come under criticism for selling a large quantity of HCA stock in 2005, shortly before it lost value. Frist claimed that he did not know he owned HCA stock, because his holdings were in a so-called "blind" trust. The Washington Post reported, however, that the trust managers regularly informed Frist when they added any stock to his portfolio. The Senate ethics committee has so far resisted calls for an investigation.
2Our list of officials includes many who are not household names. We've omitted Vice President Cheney, whose former employer, Halliburton, was awarded the major logistics contract for the Iraq war, worth an estimated $18 billion. In July 2006 the Army announced that it would cancel the biggest contract with Halliburton subsidiary KBR, and open it to comptetitive bidding. The Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction recently reported that KBR refused to disclose to investigators basic information, such as the number of people fed and the gallons of fuel delivered. In 2004 Cheney's tax return reported nearly $200,000 in deferred compensation from Halliburton. In Bush's case, the latest allegation of conflict of interest suggests that a company headed by his brother and partly owned by his parents is receiving federal funds intended for economically disadvantaged students. The LA Times reported recently that "[a]t least 13 U.S. school districts have used federal funds" to buy portable learning centers from Ignite! Learning, the company headed by Neil Bush. The law provides funding to help school districts improve reading and math skills; Ignite! does not offer reading instruction, and the math program is not yet available.
3 Film buffs will recall the quote from the movie Wall Street (1987) starring Michael Douglas and Charlie Sheen. At the end of the film, Sheen's character must choose between a high-flying lifestyle funded with ill-gotten gains, or a return to a life governed by working class values such as fair play and hard work. He chooses the latter, but is still indicted and goes to jail. His final revenge is turning state's evidence against Gekko.
The Washington Post's outline of Abramoff's career,
the Washington Post's "Scandals Alone Could Cost Republicans Their House Majority" (November 1, 2006),
and "Church Leader Says Haggard Admits To Some Indiscretions" (November 2, 2006).
The Idaho Statesman's investigation of Sen. Larry Craig.
"A Scandal-Scarred G.O.P. Asks, 'What Next?'" (NY Times, August 29, 2007)