Oh, not again…
Yet another member of the Congressional Black Caucus has been caught up in an ethics scandal. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, the non-voting representative of the District of Columbia, has been caught trying to shake down lobbyists for contributions. And in a stunning display of arrogance, she left the shakedown on a voice mail message.
Apparently she’s never heard the old advice: never write when you can speak, never speak when you can nod, never nod when you can wink. When you’re doing something corrupt, minimize the evidence and maintain deniability. And leaving a recorded message is pretty much the same as writing it down: it’s physical evidence of the attempt.
So, let’s run down the current members of the Congressional Black Caucus who have or have had ethical challenges:
Senator Roland Burris (D-IL): Appointed to succeed President Obama by Governor Rod Blagojevich, who attempted to sell the seat to the highest bidder.
Representative John Conyers (D-MI): used his House office staff to work on campaigns, as well as baby-sitting and chauffeuring his children. Further, his wife has just been sentenced to federal prison for soliciting bribes while on the Detroit City Council.
Representative Keith Ellison (D-MI): No, simply being the first Muslim to serve in Congress isn’t enough to get on my list. But his flirtations with elements of radical Islam and lackadaisical attitude towards certain laws do.
Representative Alcee Hastings (D-FL): A former federal judge who was impeached and removed from office for taking bribes.
Representative Jesse Jackson, Jr. (D-IL): Pursued the Obama Senate seat with Blagojevich, but the deal wasn’t concluded before the scandal broke.
Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX): steered Congressional Black Caucus scholarships to relatives of herself and her staff, in direct contravention of scholarship rules and House ethics rules. Also asked that the scholarship funds be paid directly to the students, and not the schools in question — on Congressional letterhead.
Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick (D-MI): She’s kept her nose clean, but her son is former Detroit mayor and convicted felon Kwame Kilpatrick.
Representative Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX): Apparently not corrupt. I suspect, though, it’s not a testament to her character, but her being too stupid and crazy for anyone to risk doing illicit business with her.
Representative Gwen Moore (D-WI): Like Kilpatrick, she’s kept clean, but her son has run afoul of political crime: he was one of the Democratic party operatives who slashed the tires of vehicles the Republicans had rented for “get out the vote” use on election day, 2004.
Representative Charlie Rangel (D-NY): Do I really need to bring up the litany on this old thief?
Representative Laura Richardson (D-CA): Can’t seem to manage her own finances.
Representative David Scott (D-GA): has made his political campaigns the major client of his family’s advertising agency, as well as employing quite a few relatives.
Representative Bennie Thompson (D-MI): Loves to travel on others’ dimes, including Jack Abramoff’s, but mainly ours.
Representative Maxine Waters (D-CA): Funneled federal contracts to benefit her relatives, and pressured federal banking regulators to bail out OneUnited Bank, where her husband was a director and major stockholder.
That’s fourteen of forty-two — a perfect third. And even if we discount Kilpatrick, Lee, and Moore, that’s still over a quarter.
Coincidence? Perhaps. After all, we are talking about Congress here, once famously called “the largest collection of unhanged rascals.” Plus, they’re all Democrats, and that also speaks volumes.
But there might be something to the theory that the Congressional Black Caucus might be benefiting from “the race card.” They’ve stood by their members, regardless of the charges against them — Representative William “Cold Cash” Jefferson
Clinton(D-LA) (no, that never grows old) enjoyed their backing right up until he was voted out of office and convicted of bribery.
I suspect that the members have enjoyed a bit of “extra” protection from scrutiny, as would-be accusers tend to be sensitive about accusations of racism.
It certainly goes a long way towards explaining Rangel’s years of ignoring the tax laws he largely writes, Jefferson’s ability to nearly trigger a Constitutional crisis, and Waters’ personal profiteering from her position.