Do scandals matter?
Well, the House of Representatives has changed parties twice in the last fifty years- in 1994 and in 2006. It’s useful to note that both times, scandal involving leaders of the party controlling the House played a major role in the change.
The 1994 scandal was really a combination of two scandals, the House Post Office scandal and the House banking scandal. Republicans, led by a group of seven freshmen US Representatives, the Gang of Seven, did all they could to keep these scandals in the public eye. (Among the members of the Gang of Seven were Newt Gingrich, John Boehner and Rick Santorum!)
The Post Office scandal involved allegations of Representatives trading postage stamps and stamp vouchers for cash. The investigation began in 1991. Democrats did all they could to quash the investigation, but the Gang of Seven kept publicizing the matter. Finally, in July 1993, the Congressional Postmaster was convicted on charges of money laundering. He implicated Ways and Means Chairman Dan Rostenkowski during his trial. Democrat House leadership delayed requests by Republicans for a Congressional investigation into the scandal because the Clinton Administration claimed to be conducting a separate criminal investigation. This investigation took so long it involved two grand juries and three U S attorneys.
The cumulative effect on public opinion of Democrats in the House was toxic. It was this scandal, combined with the vision in the Contract with America that led to the Republican pickup of 54 seats and control of the House in 1994.
The big scandal of 2006 was the Mark Foley congressional page “incident”. Foley was accused of improper contact with under-aged male pages. Investigators produced email and text message evidence, corroborated by testimony from a number of individuals.
This was awful enough, but the real problem for Republicans was that Republican leadership was portrayed as having known about Foley’s conduct for some time and doing nothing. The scandal became a national story in September 2006. By the end of the week when the scandal broke, House Speaker Hastert requested that Foley resign immediately. Foley resigned and the next week checked into a rehab facility for alcoholism.
For Republicans, the scandal continued. Democrats claimed that Republicans knew about Foley’s behavior for a long time and provided cover for him. Their allegations, combined with a daily outpouring of stories about Foley’s past contacts, dominated the news cycle during most of the critical pre-election period. The big question was who knew what, and when, about Foley. (Only later- after the election- did it become public knowledge that Democrat leadership and staffers knew as much about Foley as Republicans did.) Democrats, as well as many conservative news organizations like the Washington Times, called for Hastert to resign. Polling after the affair broke indicated a strong voter preference swing toward Democrats. The rest is history. A 31 seat pickup for Dems, and control of the House.
The Corzine scandal has the potential to be as significant as the 1994 and 2006 scandals. It involves theft of money on an almost unimaginable scale- over a billion dollars- by a former Democrat governor who is a very close associate of Obama. That’s bad enough. But the element of the scandal which implicates Obama and the Democrat Party is the fact that the Democrat-controlled CFTC was successfully lobbied by Corzine to delay putting in place controls which could have at least partly prevented the theft. (Try googling Gary Gensler, the head of the CFTC- a prominent Democrat hack.) New disclosures are coming daily. We learned this week that Bill Clinton was heavily involved in lobbying on behalf of Corzine’s MF Global, as well.
The reason the Foley scandal was so powerful was that it depressed turnout by value-oriented conservatives. The Corzine scandal is a mirror image- it could depress turnout by the anti-capitalist Left, the core of Obama supporters. The Corzine matter involves the actions of a very wealthy Wall Street leader. This leader was not just nominally a Democrat, he was one of the leading Democrats. A central strategy of Obama’s re-election campaign is to tie Republicans to Wall Street excesses. Think: Occupy Wall Street. Think: “the 1%”. But the Corzine scandal, at the very least, proves that with Obama it’s all talk when it comes to standing up for the 99% against Wall Street.
One more thing. This scandal won’t become significant unless the Republican Party presses it. So far, media and Republican attention has focused solely on Corzine. While it was useful for the Republicans to ask Corzine to testify before the Agriculture Committee, the members of that committee didn’t ask the right questions about financial issues and about Corzine’s contacts with the CFTC, Obama administration, Clinton, and so on. That’s where the bigger scandal is.
Republicans need leadership on this. At least three people should be speaking up:
- Newt. This is the same Newt who, after all, led Republican takeover of the House in part by focusing on Democrat corruption in 1994.
- Mitt. This guy is hopeless. The reason we like him is because he seems honest, scandal-free, smart and accomplished. He’s supposed to understand matters financial. So WHY doesn’t he respect our intelligence and speak in more detail about financial issues- about problems and solutions? Does he think we don’t care?
- Paul Ryan. Remember him? Where HAS Paul Ryan been lately, anyway?
Come on, Republicans. Energize the base. Depress the Democrat base. Do something for your country. Investigate this scandal.