Democrats' Ethical Lapses Could Imperil Hold on Power

March 6, 2010

Congressional Democrats reclaimed control of Congress in 2006 by pledging to “drain the swamp” after Republican ethics scandals rocked Capitol Hill. Now, a series of controversies involving Democratic members has robbed the party of its claim to hold the higher moral ground — and could threaten its hold on power in this fall’s elections.
The announcement Friday by freshman Rep. Eric Massa (D-N.Y.) that he will resign amid allegations that he sexually harassed a male staffer capped a week of near-daily ethical distractions for a party struggling to pass heath-care reform legislation.
A few days earlier, congressional Democrats forced Rep. Charles B. Rangel (D-N.Y.) to step down temporarily from the chairmanship of the House Ways and Means Committee. The House ethics committee had admonished Rangel for accepting corporate-sponsored trips, and he remains under investigation for other alleged violations.
Five other Democratic lawmakers were cleared last week by the House ethics committee. They had been investigated for allegedly steering no-bid contracts in exchange for campaign contributions. One of them, Rep. Peter J. Visclosky (D-Ind.), remains under investigation by the Justice Department.
The controversies have increased Republican attacks on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.), who pledged in 2006 that Democrats would run “the most ethical Congress in history.”

Read more: (Perry Bacon Jr., “Democrats’ Ethical Lapses Could Imperil Hold on Power,” The Washington Post, 03/06/10)