Wash. Post's Birnbaum: Jefferson indictment balances out multiple GOP convictions, indictments, investigations


On Fox News, Jeffrey Birnbaum asserted that the indictment of Rep. William Jefferson "makes the allegations of corruption bipartisan." However, at least nine Republican members of Congress and Bush administration officials have been indicted or pleaded guilty to criminal charges.

On the June 4 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume, Washington Post staff writer Jeffrey Birnbaum asserted that the June 4 bribery indictment of Rep. William Jefferson (D-LA) "makes the allegations of corruption bipartisan." In just the past three years, however, at least nine Republican members of Congress and Bush administration officials -- including the former House majority leader, Tom DeLay (TX) -- have been indicted or pleaded guilty to criminal charges. Birnbaum did not explain how one indicted Democratic congressman who was not in the congressional leadership (and another who is under investigation) is equivalent to the wide swath of Republicans who have been convicted, indicted, or are under investigation.

Birnbaum was responding to a question from Fox News Washington managing editor Brit Hume about whether Jefferson's indictment "hurts the Democrats as a group in Congress." Hume had previously asked Roll Call editor Morton M. Kondracke whether the indictment "change[s] ... the political equation" on the issue of corruption and whether it "deprive[s] the Democrats of [the] issue" and "help[s] the Republicans in their efforts to try to say, 'Look, you know, they're no different than we were?' " Kondracke, however, said he did not think that was the case.

But while Birnbaum mentioned former Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-CA), who pleaded guilty to taking bribes from defense contractor Mitchell Wade, Birnbaum did not mention the other Republican members of Congress and Bush administration officials who have either pleaded guilty, been convicted, or been indicted:

  • Former Rep. Bob Ney (OH) pleaded guilty in October 2006 to taking bribes from former lobbyist Jack Abramoff.
  • DeLay was indicted in October 2005 for money laundering and conspiracy to launder money. A former DeLay aide, Tony Rudy, pleaded guilty in connection with the Abramoff scandal, while another former aide, Michael Scanlon, pleaded guilty to conspiring with Abramoff to bribe public officials.
  • Former White House procurement official David H. Safavian was convicted in June 2006 of lying and obstructing justice in the Abramoff investigation, as Media Matters for America has noted.
  • Former vice presidential chief of staff I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby was convicted in March 2006 of obstructing justice and making false statements. On June 5, he was sentenced to 30 months in prison and ordered to pay a $250,000 fine.
  • Former Deputy Secretary of the Interior J. Steven Griles pleaded guilty in March 2007 to obstructing justice. As a March 23 Associated Press article reported, Griles "admitt[ed] in a plea agreement that he lied in testimony before the Senate Indian Affairs Committee on Nov. 2, 2005, and during an earlier deposition with the panel's investigators on October 20, 2005."
  • Former CIA executive director Kyle "Dusty" Foggo was charged by federal prosecutors in San Diego with improperly trying to steer a $132 million contract to defense contractor Brent Wilkes.
  • Former FDA commissioner Lester Crawford pleaded guilty to charges of "conflict of interest and false reporting of information about stocks he owned in food, beverage and medical device companies he was in charge of regulating," according to an October 17, 2006, Associated Press report. "Beginning in 2002," the AP report stated, "Crawford filed seven incorrect financial reports with a government ethics office and Congress, leading to the charges."
  • Former Federal Housing Finance Board chairman John T. Korsmo "pleaded guilty to one count of making false statements to the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, which oversees the Finance Board, and the Inspector General for the Finance Board," as Media Matters noted.

In addition, several current and former Republican congressmen and senators are reportedly under investigation over corruption allegations. For example:

  • Rep. John T. Doolittle (CA) is reportedly under investigation by the FBI in connection to his dealings with Abramoff.
  • Rep. Jerry Lewis (CA) is reportedly under investigation in connection with the Cunningham scandal, and will reportedly not seek re-election. According to a January 31 article in The Hill, Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) said in an interview that "he believes Lewis is innocent until proven guilty, and that prevented him from toppling him from the top GOP spot on the [House Appropriations Committee]."
  • Rep. Gary Miller (CA) is reportedly under investigation for two land deals and related taxes, although he says FBI agents have not contacted him.
  • Rep. Rick Renzi (AZ) is reportedly the subject of a preliminary investigation into whether he pressured several landowners to buy land from a business partner.
  • Former Sen. Conrad Burns (MT) is reportedly under investigation in the Abramoff investigation.
  • Former Rep. Curt Weldon (PA) is being investigated over allegations that he "used his influence to secure lobbying and consulting contracts for his daughter," according to an October 14, 2006, Associated Press article.

In addition, as The Washington Post reported on March 8, Sen. Pete V. Domenici (R-NM) is the subject of a preliminary Senate ethics investigation into a phone call he made to then-U.S. Attorney David Iglesias before the 2006 elections. According to an April 12 article in the Post, "[B]ecause the House ethics committee keeps its probes secret, it is unclear whether the lower chamber is looking into the similar allegations concerning Rep. Heather Wilson (R-N.M.), a close ally of Domenici." Domenici and Wilson allegedly pressured Iglesias to indict a local Democratic official on corruption charges before the 2006 elections.

By contrast, one Democrat, Rep. Alan Mollohan (WV), is reportedly the subject of an FBI investigation.

From the June 4 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume:

HUME: All right, so -- so it's a big case. Long awaited. Came too late, the Republicans had hoped, of course, it would come before the '06 election and would not allow that election to be so much, in their view, about Republican corruption, of which there had been a number of instances.

Does this change the equation -- the political equation on that subject? Does this deprive Democrats of this issue? Does this help the Republicans in their efforts to try to say, "Look, you know, they're no different than we were?" Or not?

KONDRACKE: I don't think so. Look, the Democrats -- when his office was raided, back in the last Congress -- up on Capitol Hill, the Democrats kicked him off the House Ways and Means Committee. They left him on one other committee. And the score --

HUME: But now they're proposing to put him on the Homeland Security Committee.

KONDRACKE: Well, I can't believe that that will ever actually happen. They've been -- Nancy Pelosi had been talking about that for a long time. You're not going to put somebody who's under indictment --

HUME: But she was under a certain amount of pressure from the Congressional Black Caucus to restore him to the Ways and Means Committee.

KONDRACKE: Yeah, but now that he's indicted -- now that he's indicted -- with this indictment, they are not going to do that.

HUME: So, you don't think this will tar the -- this hurts the Democrats as a group in Congress?

BIRNBAUM: I think it makes the allegations of corruption bipartisan, now, clearly. And so, it does help the Republicans and hurt the Democrats, essentially. And I think the Democrats are trying to make sure that they are hurt less than they're about to be by speaking about this. They are trying to -- Nancy Pelosi is trying to get Jefferson off of the Small Business Committee, which he's still on, or move him. But, I think Boehner -- Congressman John Boehner, the majority [sic] leader in the House, is trying to press the political issue by pushing the idea of expelling Jefferson if he is actually found guilty and keeping it in the forefront, in large part for political purposes in the same way that the Democrats did that to the Republicans with Duke Cunningham.

FRED BARNES (Weekly Standard executive editor): It is not going to impress the voters. Nancy Pelosi wants to take this guy with this horrendous indictment off of the Small Business Committee. I mean, that's not going to help much. Look, this is gonna -- this hurts Democrats.

Look, I don't think congressional corruption was going to be a huge issue in the 2008 election, in 2006 it won it. It was -- it killed Republicans, but this will, I think, make Democrats a lot less likely to try to use that issue again.

Posted In
Government, Ethics
Fox News Channel
Jeff Birnbaum
Special Report with Brit Hume
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