Is corruption an issue or is it not an issue? The Washington Post puts out yet another article explaining how corruption is not a driving issue in campaigns despite the myriad scandals in Washington. They then trot out Sen. Conrad Burns’ reelection campaign as an example where the Senator’s close ties to Jack Abramoff are not affecting the race. Please! Burns has been hit on ethics issues for almost a year now and you’re telling me that has nothing to do with the recent polls showing him down nine points in the polls.
One of the stranger elements to these “corruption isn’t important” articles is how they gloss over the careers already destroyed by the scandals. Rep. Duke Cunningham, a powerful subcommittee chairman; Rep. Bob Ney, the Mayor of Capitol Hill and the man who renamed a fast food staple; Ralph Reed, one of the most influential Republican operatives and a rising star; and Rep. Tom DeLay, the most powerful person on Capitol Hill. These are not insignificant careers. DeLay was perhaps the most powerful and dominant Majority Leader ever and Reed was touted as a future GOP nominee for President.
A Copley News article provides a different take on the corruption scandals than the Post. Ney’s demise, they argue, puts intense pressure on Republicans, particularly in Ohio, at just the wrong moment. The reelection hopes of three endangered Ohio Republicans, Deborah Pryce, Steve Chabot, and Jean Schmidt could all sour due to the Ney conviction (not to mention the race to replace Ney in Ohio-18).
The Democrats are aiming to take the House this fall and to do so they need to win fifteen races while holding all of their own. Ney’s guilty plea could be the tipping point on four races in one state. Perhaps corruption does matter after all. As Paul Kiel says, “C’mon, people! Give muck the respect it deserves.”