The Magazine

The Democrats’ ‘Culture of Corruption’

With a party like his, why in the world did Anthony Weiner resign?

Jun 27, 2011, Vol. 16, No. 39 • By MARK HEMINGWAY
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Anthony Weiner undoubtedly felt pressured these last few weeks to resign his House seat over his dishonesty and online sexual indiscretions. The leaders of his party, everyone from President Obama to House minority leader Nancy Pelosi on down, were publicly in agreement that he should go.

The Democrats’ ‘Culture of Corruption’

Gary Locke

But from Weiner’s vantage point, the question must be asked in all sincerity: Why should he be the one to resign?

The recent history of congressional scandals suggests Weiner had little reason to bow to party leaders, and every reason to stick it out. The Democratic leadership has shown an amazing capacity to tolerate and even encourage corruption that far exceeds Weiner’s misdeeds.

Remember Rep. Charles Rangel? A quick recap of his rap sheet: The onetime chairman of the House Ways and Means committee, which writes the nation’s tax laws, was guilty of massive tax evasion. The Sunlight Foundation catalogued “28 instances in which Rangel omitted assets worth between $239,026 and $831,000 that were either purchased, sold, or held from his financial disclosures.”

He further solicited millions for the Charles B. Rangel Center for Public Service at City College directly from his congressional office—even from a number of interests that had business before his powerful committee. There’s also his illegal use of rent-controlled apartments and the House parking garage, as well as other infractions too numerous to name. Rangel has been reelected and is still in office after being censured by the House Ethics Committee.

And what about Rep. Maxine Waters? The House Ethics Committee charged the California Democrat with three violations for helping secure a $12 million TARP bailout for OneUnited Bank, even though her husband was a former board member and had a substantial financial interest in the bank. The president of OneUnited was also revealed to be a cocaine abuser, and the foundering bank was paying for his $6.4 million Malibu home and Porsche even as Waters was securing his bank a taxpayer bailout.

After the scandal broke, Waters was unrepentant. She sent members of her staff to protest at an event featuring Nancy Pelosi, where they held up signs that read “Let’s fight for Maxine Waters.” Questioned about the tactic, Waters blamed her persecution on racism. “It’s about black people .  .  . These signs will show up wherever large numbers of African Americans gather,” she said.

Waters’s ethics trial was supposed to begin last fall, but it was postponed after new evidence emerged that she had been dishonest with congressional investigators. She has yet to have an ethics trial, and the Democratic leadership has been largely mum on the matter.

In January, Paul Magliocchetti was sentenced to 27 months in prison for campaign finance violations. Magli-occhetti was the head of the PMA lobbying firm, best known for funneling $2.3 million to the late John Murtha, the Democrat from Pennsylvania who secured millions in earmark spending that benefited PMA clients. The PMA scandal had been dragging on for years, and Murtha’s legendary corruption dated all the way back to his role in the Abscam scandal in 1980, when the FBI videotaped him saying he was open to taking a $50,000 bribe. Despite this, Murtha died in office last year as the House’s top defense appropriator.

Then there’s Rep. Gregory Meeks, another New York Democrat, who was under investigation by a grand jury and the FBI last year for a secret $40,000 personal loan from a wealthy businessman in his district. Meeks was also investigated for promoting a charity for Hurricane Katrina victims that can’t account for almost $30,000 of the $31,000 it raised.

Following reports he was stashing his yacht in a tax haven, Democratic senator John Kerry of Massachusetts paid up only after the matter became public last year, even though his wife has a net worth surpassing that of a good many island nations. West Virginia Democratic senator Joe Manchin was under federal investigation for corruption last fall. After raising millions for the Clinton and Obama campaigns, Democratic fundraiser Hassan Nemazee was sentenced last July to 12 years for bank and wire fraud. And multiple lawmakers were caught last year directing Congressional Black Caucus scholarship funds to friends and relatives.

Obama may have said that Weiner should resign, but when it comes to ethics, the White House is a glass house. It may well have violated a number of laws in the last election by dangling jobs before Rep. Joe Sestak and Andrew Romanoff in order to entice them out of their Democratic primary races in Pennsylvania and Colorado respectively.

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