A Scandal-Filled Election—Two bribery convictions, one money-laundering indictment, two sex scandals, one Russian contracting fiasco and $90,000 stashed in a freezer. It’s been that kind of a year for the 109th Congress. Here’s how scandals are affecting some of the Congressional races across the country:
Duke Cunningham, California: Cunningham resigned from Congress and pled guilty last November to accepting bribes from defense contractors. In June, Republican Brian Bilbray narrowly defeated Democrat Francine Busby in a controversial (and disputed) special election to replace Cunningham. The two face off again in November. While the race has tightened in recent weeks, Bilbray is still favored.
Tom DeLay, Texas: DeLay stayed in Congress after an indictment on money laundering charges in Texas but decided against running for re-election after top aides became embroiled in lobbyist Jack Abramoff’s bribery ring. Unfortunately for Republicans, DeLay’s name remains on the ballot, forcing his replacement, Houston City Councilwoman Shelley Sekula-Gibbs, to mount a long-shot write-in campaign. Well-funded former Congressman Nick Lampson, a Democrat, should win big.
Mark Foley, Florida: As with DeLay, Foley’s name remains on the ballot, even though he abruptly resigned from Congress when his explicit e-mails and IMs to underage male pages became public. As a result, Florida Republicans can only transfer support to his Republican replacement, State Representative Joe Negron, by voting for Foley, not exactly an easy sell. Democrat Tim Mahoney, a former Republican businessman, is poised to win this seat.
William Jefferson, Louisiana: After he was filmed accepting a briefcase of cash from an FBI informant, the Louisiana Democratic Party refused to endorse Jefferson for re-election. Nevertheless, he remains popular in heavily Democratic New Orleans. The Washington Postnamed Jefferson the favorite, “unless he’s indicted.”
Bob Ney, Ohio: Ney pled guilty last month to accepting bribes from Abramoff, but he refused to resign from Congress immediately. That’s bad news for his successor, State Senator Joy Padgett, whom Democrats have relentlessly linked to the “culture of corruption” in D.C. (and Ohio). Her Democratic opponent, lawyer Zach Space, has lead in recent polls.
Don Sherwood, Pennsylvania: Last year Sherwood settled a multimillion-dollar lawsuit after he was accused of beating his 29-year-old Peruvian mistress in Washington. In the wake of the Foley scandal, Sherwood’s days are numbered. A visit from President Bush during “National Character Counts Week” probably didn’t help. Expect Sherwood to lose to former Navy Lieutenant Chris Carney.
Curt Weldon, Pennsylvania: Three weeks before the election, news leaked out that Weldon was under investigation by the FBI for illegally steering Russian business contracts to his family and friends. Then the FBI raided the home of his daughter. Weldon was already in a dead heat with retired Navy Vice Admiral Joe Sestak, who’s now favored to win.
Long Shots No Longer—Republican Representatives John Doolittle and Richard Pombo are two of the sleaziest members of Congress—allies of big business, shills for DeLay and cronies of Abramoff. The aptly named Doolittle is the seventh-highest-ranking House Republican, and Pombo chairs the House Resources Committee. Thanks to positions of prominence, and large campaign war chests, they were expected to cruise to re-election in their nearby Northern California districts. Now both are in surprisingly tough races: Doolittle with retired Air Force pilot Charlie Brown and Pombo with wind-energy consultant Jerry McNerney. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee originally wrote off these seats before adding them to a list of twenty-six “emerging races” that have suddenly grown competitive. As we go to press, the GOP is scrambling to save seats in Republican strongholds ranging from western Idaho to upstate New York.
Fat Cats on Parade—Houston multimillionaire Bob Perry was the largest donor to the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth in 2004. This year, he’s the biggest donor period, in either party, dishing out $8 million to conservative groups and candidates. He’s given $2 million to Americans for Honesty on Issues, which is paradoxically headed by a former lobbyist for Enron and adviser to DeLay. And he gave $1 million to the Free Enterprise Fund, which recently accused Tennessee Democratic Senate candidate Harold Ford, Jr., of living a “millionaire lifestyle.” Oh, the irony.