Democrats Are Just Mucked Up: Scandals At Every Level And Nationwide

Published on July 25, 2013

The Democratic Party is battling  scandals from New York to San Diego and from city hall to Capitol Hill, as the  party finds itself on the defensive over  embarrassing lapses ranging from sexual misconduct to multiple scandals  ensnaring the Obama administration.

President Obama on Wednesday denounced what he called “phony scandals” and  “an endless parade of distractions” blocking progress on the economy and other  issues, but critics say the controversies underscore the missed opportunities  for the president and his party to live up to pledges to clean up politics and  break traditional patterns of money, influence and privilege in government.

The scandals have spanned the spectrum from a Democratic mayor in San Diego  accused of being unable to keep his hands off his female aides to charges that  the administration put the Internal  Revenue Service on the trail of its political enemies.

One of Congress‘ most famous Democratic  names, the scion of Jesse Jackson in Mr.  Obama’s home city of Chicago, was just sent to prison for converting campaign  funds to personal use. In Detroit, the ex-mayor and the wife of longtime House  Judiciary Committee member John  Conyers Jr. have fallen to corruption scandals, while the son of former Democratic Party Chairman Ron  Brown admitted last month to bribery charges as a city councilman in the  nation’s capital.

Longtime political analyst John Pitney  Jr. said the Democrats’ woes can be viewed as examples of history repeating  itself and how the enticements of Washington’s political culture can trip up the  party in power.

“This culture of corruption has more to do with the culture of Washington,”  said Mr. Pitney, a political science  professor at Claremont McKenna College in Claremont, Calif. “It’s a matter of  people being in power, and power plus money equals temptation.”

It was eight years ago that Nancy Pelosi,  then the leader of the House Democratic minority, made headlines with her attack  on what she called the Republican  Party’s “culture of corruption,” but now that moniker is coming back to  haunt Democrats.

It’s reminiscent of the outcry over the influence-peddling scandal that  dogged the Republican Party in 2005,  helping put the GOP on the defensive  heading into the November 2006 midterm elections.

In 2005, the poster boy for power run amok was Jack  Abramoff, the Republican lobbyist and influence-broker who pleaded guilty to  charges of conspiracy and tax evasion. Mrs.  Pelosi coined the term “Republican culture of corruption” and wielded it to  attack the GOP on issues such as the Medicare prescription drug bill and the Iraq  War.

The result: Democrats recaptured the House and Senate in the 2006 midterm elections, and two years  later, Mr. Obama was elected president.

Summer scandals

With the 2014 midterm elections looming, however, it’s now Democrats who are  fighting off charges of corruption and misconduct as the party endures its own summer of scandal. Grabbing the headlines just this month are  the sexual escapades of former Rep. Anthony  D. Weiner of New York and San Diego Mayor Bob  Filner.

Mr. Weiner, who resigned in 2011  after admitting to sending explicit photos of himself to several women, is under  pressure to drop out of the race for the Democratic nomination for New York  mayor after reports surfaced Tuesday of raunchy exchanges under the pseudonym  “Carlos Danger.”

Mr. Filner, who was a 10-term congressman,  became mired in accusations of sexual harassment by former employees. On  Tuesday, a former campaign consultant said he patted her on the bottom, and his  former communications director recently filed a sexual harassment lawsuit  against him.

Mrs. Pelosi has refused to comment on the  Filner matter. She and Mr. Filner were  co-founders of the Congressional Progressive  Caucus, but last week she snapped at reporters who mentioned that, saying,  “Don’t identify him as my former colleague.


What sets the Democrats’ woes apart from those of the Republicans in 2006 is  the gap between the party’s rhetoric and  the “summer of scandal” that has marred the start of Mr. Obama’s second term.  “Phony or not, the administration in recent months has had to deal with the IRS-tea party scandal; the  questions surrounding the attack on the U.S. compound in Benghazi; clashes with  the press over aggressive leak investigations and the seizing of press phone  records; and the fallout from the leaking of widespread government surveillance  and intelligence-gathering programs.


“What we’re seeing from the Obama administration is this raw abuse of power  that we haven’t seen since Watergate,” Mr. Wadhams said. “I think that’s what  sets this apart.”

That is not how Mrs. Pelosi views the  uproar. During a May news conference on Capitol Hill, she rejected suggestions  that Democrats, led by President Obama, are caught in their own culture of  corruption.

“They make so much of these issues because this president is such a great  president,” said Mrs. Pelosi, adding that  “some of them are legitimate issues, but they should not dominate  everything.”

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