A month before Democrats took control of Congress in 2006, then-Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi famously declared that it was time to "drain the swamp." The Democrats' November victory that year was widely seen as a public repudiation of Republican abuses, especially Abramoff's web of corruption.
As a result of widespread scandals, four Republicans--Tom DeLay, Duke Cunningham, Bob Ney, and Mark Foley--were forced out of office and two spent time in jail. Meanwhile, Harry Reid and Patrick Kennedy are still in office despite being caught in their own scandals in 2006.
Today, Democrats Charlie Rangel and Maxine Waters are in big trouble over ethics violations, John Kerry is in the news for evading Massachusetts sales and property taxes, and Al Gore is seeking a divorce amid accusations of sexual misconduct. Plus ça change! At least in 2006, none of the public figures embroiled in scandal were former Presidential candidates.
Nevertheless, today's New York Times explains this all away as nothing more than "a heightened sensitivity in Washington to indiscretions by members of Congress." The Times goes on to explain Rangel’s particular "indiscretions:"
...there was an unusually close overlap, the committee contended, between appeals for donations and his intervention on legislative matters, citing in particular a meeting Mr. Rangel held in 2007 at a New York hotel with an executive from an oil drilling company at which he made a bid for a donation and also discussed a tax break the company was seeking.In addition to soliciting contributions for an educational institution bearing his name, Rangel also failed to report hundreds of thousands of dollars of income in Congressional disclosure forms and did not pay any taxes on rental income from his Dominican villa until 2008, after his misconduct had already been made public. Rangel's former Republican colleagues went to jail for similar "indiscretions."
The executive, Eugene Isenberg, and his company ended up making a $1 million contribution to the educational center, and Mr. Rangel helped the company secure a tax break worth an estimated $500 million.
In light of these scandals, Speaker Pelosi seems to have failed on her promise to create the "most ethical Congress in history." It's enough to make one wonder whether Democrats and the liberal press used ethics as a prop for temporary political advantage back in 2006. But lest we jump to any conclusions, Pelosi explained last week that she only meant to drain the Republican side of the swamp. We'll see if voters buy it in November.