You could wait for the book, or check out the darkest shadows of the past 12 months right here: Duke of California In the Department of Plain Old-Fashioned Boodling, lets start with Californias own Congressman Duke Cunningham, who tearfully pleaded guilty to taking $2.4 million in bribes from a defense contractor, and is now in the slammer. Dont forget that 32 other GOP congressmen took campaign cash from that same bribe-giving contractor and have shed no tears. Noes Way In Ohio, the sewer of political corruption, Governor Bob Taft pleaded no contest to taking bribes and favors from an indicted top Republican fund-raiser named Tom Noe. Taft had put the states workers compensation fund in the hands of Noe, who turned around and invested it in rare coins, as millions disappeared. Many of Tafts top staffers also wrongfully accepted Noes favors and loans, as did a GOP congressman. Noe was also indicted for illegal bundling of campaign cash for Dubya. The entire Ohio Republican Party is reeling from this scandal. Doctor Is Out In Washington, the wealthy Dr. Bill Frist, the Senate Republican leader, is now under investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission for making a second fortune through illegal insider trading in the stock of the scandal-plagued company his family owns HCA (Hospital Corporation of America, Americas largest hospital conglomerate) which had previously been fined a record-breaking $1.7 billion for defrauding Medicare and Medicaid. Generous Jack Then theres the jolly little band of Republican boodlers who clustered around indicted megalobbyist Jack Abramoff with their hands out. Abramoff is now singing to prosecutors after his indicted henchmen snitched on him and by the time Abramoff is done naming names, therell be a hail of indictments of congressmen and at least three senators, like Idahos Conrad Burns, a major recipient of Abramoffs largess. This will be as big, or bigger, than the S&L scandal back in the 80s.Abramoffs biggest buddy and water carrier, House Republican Leader Tom the Hammer DeLay, is already under indictment in a different scandal illegally laundering corporate campaign cash for Texas legislators who gerrymandered the Democrats out of six U.S. House seats. If Abramoff gives up his man DeLay, the majority leader will be in double jeopardy. Legal Outlaws Of course, theres an old saying in Washington: The real scandal isnt whats illegal, the real scandal is whats legal! At the top of the list of legal boodlers has to be Halliburton, Dick Cheneys old company. When a Pentagon procurement officer blew the whistle on deliberate Halliburton cost overruns in Iraq that bilked hundreds of millions in taxpayer dollars, Bushs man Rumsfeld punished not Halliburton but the whistle blower! And then the Bushies turned around and gave Halliburton juicy postHurricane Katrina reconstruction contracts even as they threw the poorest victims of Katrina out of their hotel and motel rooms and onto the streets. Scandalous, but legal. Payola Also quite legal is Washingtons pay-to-play revolving door, where retired solons are paid lavishly as lobbyists to distribute campaign cash to their former colleagues in return for special legislative favors. In fact, 43 percent of the 198 lawmakers who have left for the private sector since 1998 have become lobbyists, according to a new study by the public-interest group Public Citizen. Example: When Louisiana Republican Billy Tauzin stepped down as chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, where he used to regulate the drug industry among other things, he took a job heading a drug-industry lobby that reportedly pays him $2.5 million per year. Scandalous but legal. But theres so much of this sort of thing that a cynical and blinkered press gives it short shrift, and most voters dont ever hear about it. Big Brother All the others are only about money. The biggest scandal in the long run is the Republicans shredding of the Bill of Rights. Bushs recent admission that he ordered spying on American citizens by the National Security Agency without a court order clearly an impeachable crime is only the tip of the iceberg. Just two weeks ago, NBC got hold of a 400-page Pentagon memorandum revealing that, under Rumsfeld, the military had been spying on anti-war and other protest groups and individuals, accumulating a huge database through this surveillance of Americans exercising their free speech rights. Many of those targeted were student or religious groups. My fave among the Pentagons spying targets: the gay group at the University of California at Santa Cruz, which to protest military recruitment on campus because of the anti-gay Dont Ask, Dont Tell policy that has only increased the number of gays expelled from the armed forces decided to stage a kiss-in. When the Pentagons gumshoes reported this, their superiors deemed the kiss-in a credible threat of... terrorism! Bushs FBI has also been caught massively investigating anti-war, environmental and student groups including those dangerous folks at PETA as possible terrorists. But the Pentagons and FBIs spying hasnt gotten nearly the media attention of Bushs illegal electronic eavesdropping. Americans fought a revolution against one King George for the right to criticize their government when they thought it necessary. This Republican administration thinks it has royal prerogatives to brush aside the Constitutions guarantees of that right if it wants to. And if that isnt scandalous, what is? Doug Ireland can be reached through his blog, DIRELAND, at http://direland.typepad.com/direland/
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