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Editorial: Cut Out the Rot Affecting All Branches

THERE’S A CULTURE OF CORRUPTION in Washington that has festered beyond the backroom deals and late-night, private meetings people typically think of when they imagine the days of bagmen handing bags of cash to buy lawmakers and other elected officials. Today it goes by the name of “lobbying,” which is nothing more than state-sanctioned bribery as armies of K Street suits fill Washington politicians’ coffers with billions in campaign contributions.

The latest scandal involves Rep. William Jefferson, the African-American Democratic congressman from Louisiana who was videotaped by law enforcement taking bribes and eventually caught with tens of thousands of dollars stuffed inside his freezers.

It’s been weeks since the story broke, but as AFP goes to press, Mr. Jefferson has yet to be indicted or charged with any crimes.

What is perhaps even more of a scandal is the fact that other senior lawmakers, such as House Majority Leader Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), have come out in defense of Mr. Jefferson, going so far as to say that the FBI, acting on allegations of
bribery and corruption and raiding the lawmaker’s office, are in direct violation of the hallowed doctrine of separation of powers embodied in the Constitution.


In one of the craziest comments yet made, House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) told reporters:

 “The institution has a right to protect itself against

the executive branch going into our offices and violating what is the Speech and Debate Clause that essentially says, ‘That’s none of your business, executive branch.’ ”

Perhaps, these esteemed lawmakers would have felt better if yet another House investigative panel was called to question Jefferson. We can see it now: Mr. Jefferson, testifying not under oath as part of a backroom deal worked out between the Louisiana congressman’s counsel and some underling congressional lawyer, is asked by a Democrat congressman where he got all that money. And just as Hillary Clinton lied to the American public when she said she got a “hot tip” on cattle futures, which netted her $100,000 on a mere $1,000 investment, from a friend who was not seeking political favors, Jefferson could explain away the $90,000 in his refrigerator and the video of him taking bags of cash as gifts from friends.

The good news is most people are not buying it. This is the sort of open corruption found in Mexico and other third world countries. Thank God, America has not yet sunk low enough to excuse it. A recent poll by a major broadcaster found that Americans are growing increasingly fed up with how Washington conducts business. In one survey conducted in late May, 72% of respondents said they did not see much difference between the honesty and ethics of politicians in both the Democratic Party and the Republican Party.

Tell your representatives in Washington that you are fed up with this corrupt culture. They need to act decisively now to excise the rot from Washington.

(Issue #24 & 25, June 12 & 19, 2006)

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Updated June 10, 2006