Congress To The Same Checks That They Hold Us To
If They Can Infringe On Our Rights, For Others'
Crimes, Then They Need To Be Held Accountable For The Crimes of Their Peers As
NewsFocus.org, by Tim Watts - 030113
With the gun debate raging in the US, many Americans have been
outraged by the temerity of Congress in calling for restrictions on our 2nd
amendment Constitutional right. After all, the 2nd amendment specifically says
that this right "shall not be infringed," so why do our elected
representatives think that they are able to go over our heads and ask for
something that the greater majority of We The People did not call for?
The attacks in Aurora, Colorado and Newtown, Connecticut are
alleged to be attacks from lone gunmen, one person that flipped out and
decided to just start shooting innocent people. While that premise is a bit far
fetched, and also considering that there is ample evidence from both shootings
to prove that accomplices were involved, how is it that Congress feels it has
the right to make us pay for someone else's crimes, by restricting our
They did this to us after 9/11, taking away our Constitutional
rights because of someone else's crimes, especially crimes that have
indubitably nefarious government connections. Congress took it upon themselves
to restrict and infringe upon our rights with the Patriot Act, the Military
Commissions Act, and the Homegrown Terrorism Act, to name but just a few.
The Bush-Cheney administration and the US military were clearly
guilty of numerous faux pas on that fateful day, with former officials such
as President George W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of Defense
Donald Rumsfeld and General Richard Myers, who was acting Chairman of the Joint
Chiefs of Staff, all intimately involved in the circle of failure to defend the
US, yet not one person in our government or military were reprimanded, indicted,
or stripped of rank due to their own personal failures on that fateful day.
No one in the government or the military was made to pay for
their lack of proper action or their failure to fulfill their duties to
We The People on 9/11, yet they made us pay the price by going after
How the hell is this a proper course of action?
If a criminal robs a grocery store, do you penalize the store
owner by taking away their business license?
If a woman is raped, is she then required to cover up and wear
sack cloth for the rest of her life?
These are of course very simple analogies, but I trust you
understand the premise, you don't penalize the victim for the crime.
So you better ask yourself why it is that Congress once again
seeks to make its constituents pay with the loss of Constitutional rights after
a crime is committed by someone else.
If this is the tactic that they wish to pursue each time there is
a crime committed in this country, then it's about time that we did the same to
Congress is certainly not guilt-free of crime. Nary a day or week
goes by without word of Capitol Hill wrongdoings by our elected representatives.
Not only are they guilty of high crimes while in office, a great
many were also guilty before they ran for office.
Face it, as the old saying goes, behind every great fortune lies
a great crime. So who do we have filling out our Congress and Senate these days?
Millionaires and billionaires are now the norm.
Does that sound like a body of politicians that truly represents We
Our elected representatives have been caught with their pants
down, literally, in numerous instances, many times in recent years alone.
Getting caught with hookers, having marital affairs, or worse
yet, indicted for pedophilia, has sadly become quite common in politics.
Political graft is certainly just as common, if not more
prevalent. Spousal abuse, fraud, drug use and drunk driving are also very high on
the list, not to mention bribery and of course corporate collusion.
So if our elected representatives want to strengthen background
checks that were already in place, making it tougher to buy a gun, then
it is time that we hold them to the same standards, by making it tough for them
to run for office.
These political parasites need to be held to the same standards
that they hold us to.
Why shouldn't they be?
Any gun owner knows that there were already FBI background
checks for the sale of every gun in the US. The only people that don't realize
this are those who have never purchased a firearm.
The attempt to add more requirements and restrictions on existing
background checks is to quell the burgeoning rise in gun sales, and to hopefully
assess who has what type of gun that might be dangerous to an
anti-Constitutional police state.
It's often said that registration is the first step to
confiscation. Remember what they did after Hurricane Katrina? They went door to
door and confiscated over 2,000 guns, at a time when the citizens needed them
the most, to protect themselves from looters.
The biggest hypocrite of all in this latest gun grab is Senator
Diane Feinsten, a longtime Council On Foreign Relations (CFR) member who led the
1994 Clinton-era gun ban, and who is leading the charge once again. She has
admitted publicly that when she feared for her life as Mayor of San Francisco,
she bought firearms to protect herself.
So what's good for the goose is apparently not good for the
gander in this case, eh?
Do as I say and not as I do, is that what Feinsten is
It's no secret that our Congress persons and Senators have armed
body guards, including of course both Barack Obama and Joe Biden. It's okay
for them to have protection, but damn We The People?
It's time that we hold our elected officials to the same
standards. If one of them commits a crime, then we must now suspect all of them
for the same intent.
If they want to increase background checks on us, then we want
increased background checks on them.
It's only fair. I mean, it's all about preventing crime, right?
That's why we've started a new White House petition, as we did
when we asked that law enforcement and the government be held to the same
restrictions that are being debated for us.
Our new petition states...
Increase Personal Background Checks For Our Politicians And Elected Officials So
That They Are Held To The Same Standards Imposed On Us
We The People are being threatened with even
tighter restrictions for already existing FBI gun background
checks, even though we have committed no crimes. In the interest
of fairness and accountability, we ask that our elected
officials be held to the same standard by subjecting them to
tighter personal background checks for crimes committed by their
peers and former US representatives. We ask that they be
thoroughly investigated for use of prostitutes, marital affairs,
pedophilia, murder, robbery, political graft, insider trading,
misuse of corporate funds, spousal abuse, fraud, drug use, and
drunk driving, as well as bribery and corporate collusion. We
ask that these checks be performed before each election and/or
new term, with a full report provided for public scrutiny.
See the petition here:
We like to think that what's good for the
goose is indeed good for the gander. Please, help us sign this
new petition and make our politicians accountable for the same
crimes as their peers.
If it's truly all about preventing crime, then it's only fair
that they are held to the same standard that they are trying to subject us to
with the proposed new gun legislation.
Editor's Note: It is indeed
interesting that the criteria for signatures needed is now a daunting 100,000 people,
rather than the required 25,000 at the beginning of the year. It would seem
readily apparent that our elected servants tire of our legitimate Constitutional
right to express our grievances by making it harder for our petitions to get
The following is a
five part series published in 1999 in Capitol Hill Blue, written
by editor Jack Sharp, researcher Marilyn Crosslyn, and private
Investigator James Hargill, on the crimes of our elected
officials. It is serious food for thought in considering equal
Congress: America's Criminal Class:
Rep. Corrine Brown and her long trail of lies, deceit
and unpaid bills
By the staff
America, Mark Twain once said,
is a nation without a distinct criminal class "with the possible
exception of Congress."
If anything, the Congress of today is even worse than it was
in Twain's time more than a century ago.
The 535 men and women who make up the House and Senate of the
United States include, at best, a collection of rogues, con
artists, scofflaws and bad check artists. At worst, they
comprise, as Twain once observed, a distinct criminal class.
Over the past several months, researchers for PoliticsLive
have checked public records, past newspaper articles, civil
court cases and criminal records of members of the United States
Congress. We have talked with former associates and business
partners who have been left out in the cold by people they
thought were friends.
What emerges from this examination is a disturbing portrait
of a group of elected officials who routinely avoid payment of
debts, write bad checks, abuse their spouses, assault people and
openly violate the law.
They include current Rep. Corrine Brown (D-Fla), whose trail
of bad debts, lies to Congress and misstatements to the Internal
Revenue Service have spawned a number of investigations. Then
there is Rep. James Moran (D-Va) whose wife has charged him with
abuse, who has assaulted other members of Congress on the floor
of the House and is a former stockbroker whose judgment in
trades is so bad he is broke from poor investments. The list
also includes Joe Waldholtz, a con man and husband of former
Rep. Enid Greene Waldholtz (R-UT) who kited more than a million
dollars in bad checks and ended up in prison.
Others, like former Ohio Senator John Glenn, have driven
creditors into bankruptcy because of unpaid debts left over from
aborted Presidential campaigns. Even millionaire Senator Ted
Kennedy has left a trail of unpaid debts from past campaigns.
In recent years, members of Congress have gone to jail for
child molestation, fraud and other charges.
Our research found 117 members of the House and Senate who
have run at least two businesses each that went bankrupt, often
leaving business partners and creditors holding the bag.
Seventy-one of them have credit reports so bad they can't get an
American Express card (but as members of Congress, they get a
government-issued Amex card without a credit check).
Fifty-three have personal and financial problems so serious
they would be denied security clearances by the Department of
Defense or the Department of Energy if they had to apply through
normal channels (but, again, as members of Congress they get
such clearances simply because they fooled enough people to get
Twenty-nine members of Congress have been accused of spousal
abuse in either criminal or civil proceedings. Twenty-seven have
driving while intoxicated arrests on their driving records.
Twenty-one are current defendants in various lawsuits, ranging
from bad debts, disputes with business partners or other civil
Nineteen members of Congress have been accused of writing bad
checks, even after the scandal several years ago, which resulted
in closure of the informal House bank that routinely allowed
members to overdraw their accounts without penalty. Fourteen
members of Congress have drug-related arrests in their
background, eight were arrested for shoplifting, seven for
fraud, four for theft, three for assault and one for criminal
Over the next five days, PoliticsLive will take a
closer look at some of the more notorious members of
America's Criminal Class - the Congress of the United States.
We will not run lists of every member who has written a bad
check, punched somebody out or been charged with slapping a
spouse. Rather, we will examine those whose pattern of behavior
suggests a blatant disregard for both law and propriety.
Part I: Rep. Corrine Brown - running on a
record of fraud
In just seven years in Congress, Rep. Corrine Brown
has eluded creditors, filed false financial disclosure reports
and lied to the Internal Revenue Service.
"She cons people, pure and simple," says Sheryl Wilson, a
former travel agency owner in Tallahassee who knew Brown. "I
don't think she has an honest bone in her body."
Rep. Brown has a poor memory when it comes to remembering her
business dealings. The financial records that every member of
Congress is required to file shows the Jacksonville, Florida
Democrat failed to disclose the $40,000 sale of her Tallahassee
travel agency and improperly reported the sale of her
Gainesville agency. And she has omitted other required details
from her reports.
Brown has left a trail of unpaid bills from businesses she
owned in Gainesville, Jacksonville and Tallahassee during the
In 1994, a consortium of airlines sued Brown for $94,000 in
because her company, Springfield Travel Agency Inc., falsified
sales reports and did not pay its bills. Delta Air Lines revoked
her authority to write tickets because of an unpaid $7,237 bill.
She also owed $5,697 to the University of Florida and tried to
pay part of the bill with a bad check.
The IRS also went after Brown for $14,228 in unpaid taxes and
the Whirlpool Corp. had to go to court to try and collect
$10,227 in unpaid bills for appliances.
In addition, the House ethics committee is investigating
Brown over her dealings with an African millionaire who was
imprisoned on bribery charges. Two committee investigators went
to Miami recently to interview witnesses for that case.
Brown not only avoids personal responsibility for her
financial dealings, but also routinely violates congressional
rules and the law.
Members of Congress are required to file reports to reveal any
potential conflicts of interest. As a member of the House
aviation subcommittee, Brown oversees the very airlines that
sued her for unpaid bills.
But Brown not only fails to truthfully report transactions
involving her travel business, she also spends money she never
reports and buys expensive homes and other items even though she
is deeply in debt. Although she recently paid $25,000 for a down
payment on a $300,000 townhouse, those who know her say they
have no idea where she got the money.
"Somebody is always bailing her out," says a former staff
member. "You can bet the money came from sources nobody wants to
Members who file incomplete or false reports face criminal
charges under federal law. Republican George Hansen of Idaho
went to prison for 11 months in 1984 and paid a $40,000 for
failing to report more than $300,000 in loans and profits.
Last year, Brown's daughter received a $50,000 car from a
close associate of the African millionaire who faces bribery
Brown's financial dealings show a long, consistent record of
In 1985, she started a travel agency, Springfield Travel,
while serving as a Florida state legislator. Papers she filed
with the Florida Department of State, listed two prominent state
legislators as her vice presidents-Reps. Doug "Tim" Jamerson of
St. Petersburg and James Hargrett of Tampa.
But Jamerson or Hargrett say didn't know they were affiliated
with her company until years later.
"I was somewhat surprised to learn I was even on the board,"
said Jamerson, now a Tallahassee lobbyist. "It would have been
nice to have been asked."
Brown opened the agency's first office in her hometown of
Jacksonville and started a second office in Tallahassee where
she spend most of her time while serving in the Legislature.
Brown often used the agency to take advantage of the free
trips offered to travel agents.
"She was always getting tickets to Aruba and places like
that," former employee Ed Curry told The St. Petersburg Times.
But while Brown was running off to Aruba on free trips,
creditors were calling to ask why they weren't getting paid.
Brown occasionally paid her employees in cash or wrote
personal checks to cover payroll, Curry said. More than once,
the paychecks bounced.
Brown also failed to pay unemployment taxes to the state. The
State Department of Labor filed a $353 state tax lien against
the company. As of last week, the lien had not been paid.
Even though she couldn't pay her bills, Brown sought to
expand her company in 1991.
Barnett Bank gave her a $10,000 loan, but could never get a
full accounting of how it was spent. At the same time, Brown
started a new company, Springfield Enterprises, which she said
would resell appliances and seafood.
Whirlpool Corp. filed suit against Springfield Enterprises
for an unpaid $10,227 bill, saying Brown bought more than a
dozen large appliances and didn't pay for them. Brown finally
paid the bill after the company obtained a judgment.
But Brown was busy opening other businesses. In February
1992, she opened Gator Travel at the University of Florida in
Seven months later, she was five months behind in her rent and
owed the university $7,066. The IRS also filed a lien against
Springfield Travel for $14,228 in unpaid taxes. Brown, who was
running for her first term in Congress, was busy looking for
someone to buy the travel agency.
Two buyers-Melvin Stith, dean of the Florida State University
business school, and Edward Scott II, a Tallahassee dentist,
paid her $40,000 for the agency, according to a contract filed
with the state. Brown did not report the sale on her mandatory
congressional disclosure, which required her to list sales of
all assets worth more than $1,000.
The cash allowed her to make payments on some of her debts.
The University of Florida got a personal check for the overdue
$8,479 bill. The IRS withdrew the lien against her in March
But Brown was soon in trouble again.
In February 1993, she wrote the University of Florida a check
for $1,413 - partial payment for a $5,600 bill.
The check bounced.
A month later, Delta Air Lines revoked her authority to write
tickets because of an unpaid $7,237 bill, a move that
effectively put her travel agency out of business (Delta was the
primary airline serving Gainesville).
Enter three Miami businessmen who were willing to take over
her failing travel agency.
Emilio F. Torres and his partners at Douglas Executive Travel
agreed to pay Brown's overdue rent to the university and take
over the agency, but the transition to Torres' company took more
than six months because Brown owed the airlines so much money.
Finally, the airlines seized Brown's official ticketing plates
and Torres was allowed to take over the lease.
Brown, however, lied about the transaction on her financial
disclosure reports to the House of Representatives. Her 1993
report claims Torres bought her agency for an amount between
$50,000 and $100,000. Since then, her reports claim she is owed
$50,000 to $100,000 by Torres and his partners.
But Torres never bought Gator Travel. He just assumed the
"We didn't buy anything from her," he says. "I don't owe her
State records support his claims.
Torres also did not pay Brown's overwhelming unpaid debts to
The Airlines Reporting Corp., a consortium of the airlines
that handles ticket transactions with travel agencies, filed a
lawsuit against Brown in U.S. District Court in Washington in
September, 1994 (while Brown was running for her second term),
saying Brown failed to pay about $94,000 for plane tickets and
lied about her financial transactions.
Brown eventually paid the $94,000 and the suit was dismissed.
But Brown never reported the debts on her disclosure forms.
Florida state records show she signed a contract in 1992 taking
personal responsibility for the bills.
Her disclosure forms also fail to show where she got the
$94,000 to pay off the airlines. Her 1994 form said she didn't
have enough money to make the payment.
Her latest report shows no savings accounts, no money market
funds and no stocks that she could redeem. The only asset she
listed is a Jacksonville condo that she rents.
Yet she still hasn't paid back the money she borrowed from
Barnett Bank in 1991 and has mortgages on a $110,000 waterfront
house in Jacksonville and the $300,000 Alexandria, Va.,
townhouse she recently bought with her daughter.
Nobody seems to know where Brown got the $25,000 down payment
for the townhouse. Brown's daughter, a political appointee for
the Environmental Protection Agency, said in her financial
disclosure report that she didn't have any assets over $1,000.
"She's always pulling a scam on someone," says Oliver Roster
of Jacksonville, who has known Brown for years. "Somebody,
somewhere, got the money for her. What we don't know yet is what
she had to do or promise to get it."
Brown also forgot to disclose a $10,000 check she received in
1996 from a secret Wisconsin bank account Baptist leader Henry
J. Lyons allegedly used for money laundering.
The money came from a secret account in Milwaukee that is a
focus of charges against Lyons. Federal prosecutors say Lyons,
president of the National Baptist Convention USA, hid more than
$1 million in the account.
Brown's office did not return phone calls seeking comment on
(The report was coordinated and written by PoliticsLive
editor Jack Sharp with assistance from researcher Marilyn
Crosslyn and private investigator James Hargill.)
Tomorrow - Virginia's battling Jim Moran,
the Congressmen who admits he "likes to hit people" and the
former stockbroker whose trades have left him busted.
Congress: America's Criminal Class -
Virginia's bombastic Congressman Jim Moran: "I like to
By the staff of PoliticsLive
Neighbors in the prosperous
Del Rey residential area of Alexandria weren't surprised earlier
this year when police cars showed up at the home of Democratic
Congressman James Moran and his wife of 11 years.
It wasn't the first time the cops had shown up.
"There was always a lot of screaming going on there," said
one neighbor. "They fought like cats and dogs."
Mary Moran called the Alexandria police that June night and
said her husband was attacking her. The police came, talked to
both, and left.
No charges were filed.
The next day, Mary Moran filed for divorce, saying - among
other things - that the five-term Congressman had abused her.
Moran claimed the charges were "trumped up" and filed a
counter suit for divorce the following month.
But the incident is just the latest violent act by the
bombastic Virginia congressman who has a history of bar brawls,
physical assaults, threats, intimidation and even fistfights on
the floor of the House of Representatives.
And he has a history of getting away with it.
Jay Armington remembers his first and only encounter with
Moran, then mayor of Alexandria, in a bar near the Potomac River
"He and another guy went from arguing to shouting to fists in
just a few minutes. One of my buddies pulled the other guy away
and I grabbed the mayor," Armington recalls.
Moran, he said, wheeled around and slammed him against the
"His cheeks were bulging and he was snorting like a bull,"
Armington said. "I realized I was looking into the eyes of a
Arne Wilkens tended bar in Alexandria, where Moran served as
mayor of the city from 1985-1990. He says the Mayor often got
"He was a bully and a thug," Wilkens said. "We'd call the
cops, but they wouldn't do anything."
Jonathan Schnapp, a former Alexandria resident, tried to file
a criminal complaint with the Alexandria police after the Mayor
threatened him following an argument outside a city council
meeting. The cops just laughed.
"They said they weren't going to risk their jobs by trying to
arrest the Mayor," Schnapp said. Schnapp said he moved out of
Alexandria because he felt both the Mayor and the police
department were corrupt.
Alexandria police refuse to discuss Moran's tenure as Mayor
publicly, but several officers admitted privately that his
behavior would have led to the arrest of "ordinary citizens."
"The Mayor was clearly guilty of assault on more than one
occasion," said one officer, who refused to be identified out of
fear for his job. "But the word came down. The Mayor was off
limits. Ordinary citizens go to jail. Not the Mayor."
Winning a seat in Congress in 1990 didn't change Moran's
violent ways. He got into more than one shoving match with other
members of Congress, including Indiana Republican Dan Burton and
California Republican Randy "Duke" Cunningham.
Moran was an amateur boxer in his youth and told
Washingtonian Magazine that had he not become a politician,
he might have tried professional boxing because "I like to hit
Supporters of the temperamental Congressman say he is just a
"typical Irish rogue," charming one minute, belligerent the
"Alexandria likes rogues," says one political supporter. "The
city has a long, colorful history of flamboyant politicians.
But political opponents say Moran is a "violent man, a time
bomb who is always ticking and ready to go off."
"He's always boiling," says Sam Asrets, a former Alexandria
activist who opposed Moran on many issues during his term as
"He knows he can get away with this because there's never any
accountability," Asrets says. "He gets breaks that ordinary
people don't get. Had he learned early on that there would be
punishment for his behavior, he would have been a lot better
Supporters say Moran deserves a break because his daughter,
Dorothy, was diagnosed with brain and spinal cancer six years
ago. The daughter, now 8, has gone into remission, but the
Morans spent more than $15,000 on alternative care on top of
$200,000 in insured treatment.
However, Moran, who was also a stockbroker before becoming
mayor of Alexandria, is nearly a million dollars in debt from
failed investments and out-of-control spending patterns that go
far beyond what the couple spent on their daughter.
The financial problems have become a central part of the
increasingly nasty divorce proceedings between Moran and his
wife. Mary Moran, 44, went heavily into debt buying gifts and
antiques the year her daughter was diagnosed with cancer.
Moran also lost $120,000 in high-risk stock options and
futures contracts in 1995 and 1996, according to his financial
disclosure forms on file in Congress. Two years later, he
reported increasingly heavy debts.
Alexandria public records show Moran more than doubled the
mortgage on his home, from $202,000 to $447,000, and is
frequently late with payments. Moran earns $136,700 a year as a
Congressman, but has more than $7,000 a month in housing and
Ironically, the Congressman sits on the powerful House
Appropriations Committee, which controls the finances of the
nation. He serves on subcommittees overseeing defense and
But the Congressman shows little ability to control his own
finances and increasingly taps his campaign funds to pay
In her divorce petition, attorneys for Mary Moran say the
congressman has a history of "wasting the family assets on his
stock market gambling." Mrs. Moran seeks $25,000 in support and
possession of their home. She says her husband "has wasted
marital funds on the excessive purchases for unnecessary items."
Moran played the stock market and lost. He wiped out earlier
stock holdings and used income tax refunds as seed money, losing
$34,000 in more than 80 trades in 1995. In 1996, he lost another
$93,000 in more than 100 failed trades.
Even though the stock market was booming, Moran risked his
money on high-risk, potentially lucrative futures and options
trading, seeking higher profits by trading on the direction of
general market index funds, as well as on an array of U.S. and
foreign technology and industrial stocks. He lost it all.
As his losses mounted, Moran borrowed heavily against both
his Alexandria home and a vacation home in King George County,
VA. The two mortgages amount to more than $600,000.
Both loans came at above-market rates from MBNA Consumer
Services Inc., a finance operation that makes high interest
loans to high-risk customers.
Moran has tried, and failed, to sell both of his houses over
the past 18 months. Public appraisals put the value of both
homes below the amount that the Congressman owes on his loans.
Congressional disclosure forms also show the Morans tripled
their credit card debt from 1993 to 1997 and now owe more than
$45,000 on the cards. Moran also has borrowed the maximum
against his congressional retirement fund -- $20,000.
Moran sold his car in 1996 and turned to his campaign fund to
lease a car for his personal use, according to his campaign
financial statements. While other members of Congress use
campaign funds for a car in their districts far from Washington,
Moran's actions have raised eyebrows in Congress.
He also tripled his reimbursement requests from the campaign
in 1997--an off year for elections--for meals and gifts,
increasing the amount the campaign pays from $4,000 in 1995 to
more than $12,000 in 1997. Aides say he is increasing his use of
campaign funds to pay such expenses.
"The campaign now pays for a lot of his personal expenses,"
says one former staff member. "It has to. He's broke."
Although the Morans refuse to discuss their finances or
personal lives, attorneys for Moran told The Washington Post
earlier this month: "The Morans, like millions of Americans,
made investments. Mr. Moran used the knowledge he acquired as a
stockbroker during the 1980s. Unfortunately it didn't work out."
Moran has moved out of his home and is renting a residence in
Alexandria. He plans to run for a sixth term in Congress in
(This report was coordinated and written by PoliticsLive
editor Jack Sharp with assistance from researcher Marilyn
Crosslyn and private investigator James Hargill.)
Tomorrow - Former California Republican Jay
Kim. Even after a conviction for violating the law, he was
called "an effective Congressman" and rewarded with plum
appointments by Congressional leaders.
Congress: America's Criminal Class -
After promising accountability, Speaker Newt Gingrich
took care of his own
By the staff of Capitol Hill Blue
In March of 1998,
a casual observer might have thought California Republican
Congressman Jay Kim's career was over.
Kim had admitted to committing the largest amount of campaign
violations ever by a member of Congress. More than one-third of
the contributions to his 1992 primary campaign, which he won by
only 889 votes, were illegal.
"Jay Kim probably stole a congressional election in 1992 by
this fraudulent campaign financing scheme. If the House is
serious about the meaning of elections and democracy, they'll
expel him, and soon," said Gary Ruskin, who directs the
Congressional Accountability Project. "In my view, Jay Kim's
presence cheapens the moral authority of every other member
After pleading guilty to accepting more than $250,000 in
illegal corporate and foreign campaign contributions, Kim was
sentenced to two months of "house arrest," restricted to his
suburban Virginia home and the halls of Congress.
But he kept his job, and all the perks that went with it. The
following month, House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) appointed
Kim to the House-Senate group negotiating the budget-busting
"He's a very active member," said House Transportation
Committee Chairman Bud Shuster.
"His plight has not diminished his effectiveness here in
Congress," said fellow California Republican David Drier.
Kim's estranged wife, June, was less charitable.
"It's really frustrating that our law is not tough enough to
get him out right away," she said. "He's humiliated us enough."
Despite her wishes, and the demands of others, the law did
not require Kim to quit and Congressional leaders, as a rule,
usually find a way to accommodate, not punish, fellow members
who break the law.
Other House members have kept their seats even while serving
in prison: Rep. Thomas Lane (D-Mass.) went to jail from May 7 to
Sept. 7, 1956, for tax evasion and Rep. Matthew Lyon (R-Vt.) was
imprisoned for violating the Sedition Act in 1798 but returned
to Congress after a mob broke him out of jail.
Kim announced immediately after his conviction and sentencing
that he would run for re-election to a fourth term.
"His plan is to win the primary, win the general election and
move ahead," spokesman P.J. O'Neil said at the time.
California Republicans rallied to Kim's defense. Rep. Jerry
Lewis, predicted Kim would defy the predictions of his political
"Jay, I expect, will be with us for a long time," Lewis said.
He wasn't. Kim was creamed in the California congressional
primary just two months later.
Gingrich told fellow Republicans he saw no reason to punish
Kim or exclude him from Congressional business.
"He's been punished by the court," Gingrich said. "That's
Kim "punishment" was two months home detention and a $5,000
fine. He could have been sent to prison for three years and
fined more than $100,000. His problems came right when
committees in both the House and Senate were getting ready to
probe illegal campaign contributions to the President's 1996
When it comes to members who break the law, leaders of both
the House and Senate usually rally around those in their own
party and call for the heads of those on the other side of the
When punishment is demanded, the motivation is almost always
political revenge, not justice.
At the time Gingrich showed such leniency to Kim, he was
himself making payments on a $300,000 fine by the ethics
committee, the worst ever levied against a member of Congress.
The fine grew out of charges filed by Michigan Democrat David
Bonior, who openly admitted he was getting even with Gingrich
for the Georgia Republican's role in bringing down former
Democratic Speaker Jim Wright of Texas.
"It's called payback," Bonior told reporters.
"Our political system doesn't act out of a sense of justice,"
says former Southern Illinois University political scientist
George Harleigh. "What you have is political expediency, driven
by revenge and gain. So the reaction of those in power is to
protect their own. Members of Congress operate on a different
plane where right and wrong don't exist - only winning and
It's been that way for years in Congress within both parties.
When the Republicans took control of the House and Senate in the
1994 elections, new Speaker of the House Gingrich promised to
put an end to such practices.
Yet during his four years as Speaker, Gingrich often looked
the other way when members of his own party crossed the legal
As both the House and Senate prepared to investigate illegal
foreign contributions to the Democratic National Committee and
the 1996 Clinton presidential campaign, a number of Republicans
urged Gingrich not to allow Government Reform Committee Chairman
Dan Burton of Indiana to chair the inquiry.
Burton, they said, was damaged goods. Stories were
circulating on the Hill that the fiery Hoosier Republican, a
known womanizer, had fathered a child out of wedlock and that it
was only a matter of time before it surfaced in the media.
Gingrich dismissed the allegations as trivial and
unimportant. The Speaker was engaged in an illicit affair of his
own with a House Agriculture Committee staff member and had
little stomach to punish another member of his own party for
But Burton had a more serious problem. He had approved nearly
$500,000 in payments and salary to a former model named Claudia
Keller, who was also listed as his campaign manager, and who
appeared simultaneously on his political and official House
payrolls. It is against the law for lawmakers to use their
office budgets to subsidize their campaigns, or vice versa.
In Burton's case, the dual payments to Keller, mostly over a
nine year span, were often made during the same periods of time,
according to federal records. In one year, according to House
Finance office documents and FEC records, Keller received almost
$22,000 for working at Burton's Indianapolis and Greenwood
district offices an average of two days a week, along with
nearly $44,000 for her full-time campaign job.
The Burton campaign had also paid Keller $250 a month to rent
office space in her Lawrence, Ind., home, which is outside
Burton's district, by declaring it the campaign headquarters.
And Keller also received more than $50,000 in campaign-related
expenses, including payments for appearances by her clown
service, FEC records show.
Keller was well known in Burton's district as a longtime
girlfriend. Denise Range, a neighbor, said she often saw Keller
wearing lingerie when Burton came to visit. Melissa Bickel,
another neighbor, said Keller would send her daughter over to
their house when Burton came calling, which was three or four
times a week. When asked about this at the time, a Burton
spokesman said he was not sure what Keller's duties were, but
would "look into it." Keller later moved to Washington to become
the Congressman's scheduler.
Burton eventually went public about his out-of-wedlock child
just before the Indianapolis Star was about to break the
story. Even reluctant Democrats agreed he handled the issue
well, admitting the affair and expressing regret about the
damage it inflicted on his marriage.
But he has not dealt as effectively with the Claudia Keller
issue. The U.S. Attorney in Indianapolis is investigating the
Congressman's possible use of "shadow" employees on the
When Gingrich's staff discussed Burton's problems, the
Speaker dismissed it with a wave of his hand.
"Old news," he said. "No big deal." Burton was a loyal
soldier, a made man. He would be protected.
"Newt ran the House like a Godfather," says former GOP
staffer Jonathan Luckstill. "His soldiers were protected at all
Some say Gingrich was reluctant to deal with problem members
because he had too many skeletons in his own closet. His affair
with the Agriculture Committee Staff Aide Callista Bisek, 33,
was in full bloom. Details of the relationship are only now
surfacing as part of a nasty divorce battle between Gingrich and
his estranged wife, Marianne.
But Gingrich was also having trouble finding enough clean
members of his own party to run the investigations not only into
campaign fundraising abuse, but the impeachment of President
"Every time the Speaker looked at a potential candidate to
lead the charge, they would have problems," said one former
staff member. "It seemed like everyone had a secret to hide."
Even grandfatherly House Judiciary Committee Chairman Henry
Hyde had legal and ethical problems.
Hyde served on on the board of directors of Clyde Federal
Savings and Loan Association in Illinois from 1981-84.
Regulators seized Clyde S& L in 1990, and the ensuing taxpayer
bailout cost $67 million. In 1993, the Resolution Trust
Corporation (RTC) brought a civil action against Clyde's board,
including Hyde, seeking damages of $17.2 million for "gross
negligence in mishandling the thrift."
Minutes of Clyde's board meetings show Hyde played an active
role in some of the S&L's most foolhardy adventures. He approved
participation in a loan for a Texas luxury beachfront
condominium project that defaulted, costing Clyde $3.7 million.
Clyde had no experience in out-of-state construction loans,
and it made the loan based on information provided by a loan
broker who "stood to receive a substantial fee" if the loan was
approved. (Ironically, the lead lender was Guaranty S&L, of
Harrison, Arkansas -- the same S& L of Bill Clinton's Whitewater
scandal.) Hyde also approved a risky options trading program,
and purchase of Grand Cayman Island Eurodollar securities.
The U.S. District Court refused to dismiss gross negligence
claims, noting the gravity of the RTC's charge that Clyde's
directors failed to "heed regulatory criticisms as set forth in
[Federal Home Loan Bank Board] Examination reports,
correspondence, and supervisory meetings."
Hyde tried to avoid paying his share of the judgment,
claiming, "I'm a victim of a lawsuit that never should have been
brought. I'm not paying a nickel."
Hyde claimed Congressional immunity, but finally agreed,
reluctantly, to pay after two federal courts told him such
immunity does not exist and that he, as a Congressman, was not
above the law.
Gingrich was aware of Hyde's problems, but still decided the
silver-haired Illinois Congressman was the man for the job.
"Right now, Henry has less baggage than many of the others,"
Gingrich told his senior staffers. "He can handle the job."
But it wasn't Hyde's ethical problems with the S&L that would
haunt him during the impeachment inquiry. It was a 30-year-old
affair back in Illinois. The media, it turned out, was also more
obsessed with sex than ethics.
Some critics feel Hyde mishandled the impeachment inquiry
into Clinton's perjury and obstruction of justice from his
affair with a former White House intern.
"You have to wonder if the Republicans in both the House and
Senate eased off their pursuit of the President and the
Democrats in the DNC fundraising scandal because of their own
vulnerability," says political scientist Harleigh. "And
Congressman Hyde gave in on several key points demanded by the
Democrats in the impeachment process. Was this because of his
own problems? At this point, we probably will never know."
Gingrich's determination to protect his soldiers was not
unique to his job or his party. Speakers from both sides of the
aisle have used their office to protect their own. Former
Democratic Speaker Tom Foley ignored calls from Democrats and
Republicans alike to remove power Illinois Rep. Dan Rostenkowski
from his powerful committee posts after the Congressman was
caught converting official funds to personal use. Foley did
everything he could to protect his friend from Illinois.
Both Foley and Rostenkowski lost their bids for re-election
in the 1994 elections that swept the Democrats out of power and
put the Republicans in charge of the House and Senate.
Rostenkowski later went to prison for his crimes, but is out now
and back in Washington working as a lobbyist.
And it was after those 1994 election that Republicans elected
Newt Gingrich as the new Speaker of the House. He promised,
after his election, to "return accountability to Congress."
(This report was coordinated and written by Capitol Hill
Blue editor Jack Sharp with assistance from researcher Marilyn
Crosslyn and private investigator James Hargill.)
Tomorrow - More cases where the rules don't
apply when you're a member of Congress.
Congress: America's Criminal Class -
Sen. Robert Byrd: Invoking an ancient rule to avoid a
By the staff of PoliticsLive
In early May, Senator
Robert C. Byrd, a longtime and powerful Democrat from West
Virginia, was following a van too closely on U.S. Route 50 in
Fairfax, Virginia, when the van stopped for traffic.
Byrd's 1999 Cadillac slammed into the rear of the van. It
took a tow truck more than an hour to pry the vehicles apart.
Byrd's car was not drivable and suffered an estimated $7,000
in damage. The driver of the 1990 Ford Econoline van, Chris Lee,
42, a house painter from Fairfax, said he didn't hear any sounds
indicating that Byrd hit the brakes or swerved.
"Just boom," Lee said.
The Fairfax County police officer who investigated the
accident had started to write the 81-year-old Senator a traffic
ticket when Bryd pulled a copy of the U.S. Constitution out of
his pocket and pointed to a section that he said the cop
prevented the cop for ticketing him for anything because he, as
a member of Congress "shall in all cases, except treason, felony
and breach of the peace, be privileged from arrest" both while
attending a session and traveling to or from the Capitol.
Byrd spokeswoman Ann Adler says the Senator, an acknowledged
Constitutional scholar, "almost always has one (the
Constitution) in his pocket."
Byrd was taken to the nearby Fair Oaks police station where
the shift commander put in a quick call to Fairfax
Commonwealth's Attorney Robert F. Horan. Horan told the cop that
if the Senator wanted to claim Congressional immunity for the
ticket, the cops would have to honor it. With everything else
that had happened in Washington in recent months, a traffic
accident probably couldn't be classified as "treason, felony or
breach of the peace."
Horan said he was familiar with the immunity clause --
Article 1, Section 6, of the Constitution -- because he had
encountered it once before during his 32 years in office.
Another member of Congress, also from West Virginia, invoked the
clause to escape a speeding ticket 20 years earlier.
The constitutional provision was written in 1781 to protect
members of Congress from harassment as they traveled across the
country (usually by horseback), and to discourage people from
trying to prevent the members from casting unpopular votes.
Constitutional scholars say that while the law has little use
in modern times, it is often used by Washington area police as a
way to avoid arresting members of Congress.
"It's a common misconception that it (the law) prevents
ticketing," says Georgetown University professor Paul Rothstein.
"Police departments in this area are frequently under that
misapprehension. I think it's a way to do a favor for people of
influence and stature, but it does smack of unequal treatment
under the law."
And such unequal treatment is often invoked. A study of
public records with police departments in the District of
Columbia, Maryland and Virginia show 217 members of the House
and Senate escaped ticketing and arrest last year for a variety
of traffic offenses ranging from speeding to driving while
In the 1998 Congressional session, 84 Representatives and
Senators were stopped for drunken driving and released after
they claimed Congressional immunity.
"I've stopped Senators who were so drunk they couldn't
remember their own name," says one Fairfax County police
officer. "And I was ordered to let them drive home."
During late-night Congressional sessions, Representatives and
Senators often spend time between votes in the private
Republican and Democratic clubs or any of a dozen other Capitol
Hill watering holes. One Capitol Hill police officer says he has
had to jump out of the way more than once to avoid being run
down by a drunken member of Congress roaring out of a House
"But there's not a damn thing I can do about it," he says,
"Not if I want to keep my job."
Sgt. Joe Gentile of the D.C. police admits city police do not
issue traffic tickets to senators and representatives while
Congress is in session. Alexandria and Montgomery County claim
members of Congress receive no special treatment for traffic
violations, but records show 47 members were released without
tickets last year. Arlington and Prince George's county refuse
to reveal their policies, but records show members are
rountinely released without charge in both counties.
Members of Congress feel no compulsion to obey the law.
District of Columbia police issued 2,912 parking tickets to cars
owned by members of Congress in 1998. None were paid. The
financially strapped District, which actively pursues and
"boots" cars belonging to ordinary citizens, does not go after
members of Congress.
But Representatives and Senators are not the only privileged
class in Washington. More than 20,000 foreign nationals living
and working in National Capital area carry cards issued by the
U.S. Department of State that grants them "diplomatic immunity"
from arrest and prosecution.
"Some may feel immunity from traffic tickets is not a big
deal, but it's significant of a culture that breeds contempt for
the rules that other citizens must obey," says retired Southern
Illinois University political scientist George Harleigh. "A
culture that allows tolerance for breaking minor laws breeds
indifference to larger violations."
For years, members of Congress exempted themselves from many
of the laws they passed for the rest of the country. Most bills
carried a statement that said, "Exempted from the provisions of
this act shall be the legislative and executive branches of the
federal government." The exemptions allowed, among other things,
members to work employees for long hours without overtime or to
discriminate on the basis of sex, political affiliation, age or
The federal Occupational Health and Safety Administration
(OSHA) can shut down a private company for safety violations,
but OSHA has no jurisdiction over Congressional buildings and
inspectors are not even allowed on Capitol Hill.
Changes made after Republicans took control of Congress in
1995 were supposed to bring Congress into compliance with the
laws that governed the rest of the nation, but those who work on
the Hill say little has changed.
"Congress is America's last plantation," says former GOP
staffer Jonathan Luckstill. "Staffers are still used to run
personal errands for members, women staffers are hired on the
basis of looks and can be fired on a whim," he says.
"There really isn't much recourse," Luckstill adds.
Sometimes, however, recourse comes through hindsight. A week
after he claimed Congressional immunity for his traffic
accident, West Virginia Senator Robert C. Byrd's staff contacted
the Fairfax County police and told them to reissue the ticket.
So the cops again called Commonwealth's Attorney Horan.
"I said, if you can waive your rights under the Fifth and
Sixth amendments you certainly can waive your rights under
Article One, Section Six," Horan said "If the senator wants his
day in court, he's entitled to it."
So the Senator got his ticket and appeared in court on July
19, pleading "no contest" on a charge of failing to keep control
of his car. The judge levied $30 in court costs, but Bryd was
not fined, a sentence that observers said was unusually light
for a Fairfax County traffic court that is known to be tough on
Even when he tried to act like a normal citizen, a member of
Congress still got a break.
(This report was coordinated and written by PoliticsLive
editor Jack Sharp with assistance from researcher Marilyn
Crosslyn and private investigator James Hargill.)
Tomorrow - Wrapping it up. What it all
Congress: America's Criminal Class -
A long tradition of corruption and ambivalence
From the time they arrive
in Washington, newly elected members of Congress are told they
are something special, an elite class.
"You have reached a special place in life and in American
history," Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott of Mississippi told
a recent class of freshmen Senators and Congressman. "Treat it
But too many members of both the House and Senate treat their
"special place in life and in American history" as a license to
steal, living large at taxpayer expense, ignoring laws that
apply to ordinary Americans and betraying the trust of the
public that put them there.
Does the heady atmosphere of Congress turn honest men and
women into a criminal class? Or is elected office simply a
magnet for those who lie, cheat and steal for a living?
It could be a little bit of both, say political scientists
and Constitutional scholars.
"There's no doubt that politics attracts the glib, the fast
talker and the con artist," says retired Southern Illinois
University political scientist George Harleigh. "It's a natural
place for those who think fast on their feet."
Congress has always had its share of rogues and scoundrels:
· Adam Clayton Powell, the fast-talking Harlem Congressman
who was re-elected even after Congress expelled him in 1967.
Powell had survived charges of income-tax evasion (with a hung
jury) even before his first election to Congress.
· Wes Cooley, the Oregon Congressman who lied about serving in
the Korean War, quit Congress under a cloud in 1996, and was
later convicted of falsifying VA loan applications.
· California Congressman Walter Tucker, who quit Congress in
1996 just before his conviction for accepting $30,000 in bribes
and sentenced to 27 months in the federal pen.
Congressmen have gone to jail for child molestation, bribery,
fraud, misuse of public funds and various crimes and
misdemeanors. Some have resigned in disgrace: Wayne Hayes
because he put his mistress on his payroll as a secretary (she
couldn't type) or Wilbur Mills because he messed around with a
Yet Gary Studds of Massachusetts seduced a young male House
page, defied the House when it censured him and was re-elected
several times. But Dan Crane of Illinois had sex with a female
page, cried and begged forgiveness on the floor of the House and
lost his next election.
Rep. Barney Frank, also of Massachussets, is the most
openly-gay member of Congress and shared his Washington
townhouse with a male prostitute who ran a homosexual whorehouse
out of the residence. But that didn't stop him from winning
re-election easily or serving as the primary Democratic defender
of Bill Clinton during the Monica Lewinsky scandal.
"Congressional corruption has no party, no ideology and no
gender," says Constitutional Scholar Alan Baker. "It's
bipartisan and soaked in history and tradition. It also often
Sociologist Sandra Reeves believes public perception of
widespread corruption among elected officials is one of the
reasons for the widespread ambivalence over Bill Clinton's sex
and money scandals.
"If the public felt Congress was an honest institution, there
might have been more outrage over the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal,"
Reeves says. "But many people felt that the people investigating
the President were just as dirty."
"Right when the Republicans were trying to prove malfeasance
on the part of the Clinton administration in accepting campaign
contributions from foreign sources, they have one of their own
(Congressman Jay Kim of California) convicted of doing the same
thing," Harleigh says. "But instead of sending him packing, they
embrace him and talk about what a great guy he is and how
important he is to Congress and the party. What kind of message
does that send?"
Congress is nearly always slow to act against its own. It
took the Senate three years to investigate and finally get rid
of serial sexual harasser Senator Bob Packwood of Oregon. Many
of Packwood's Republican colleagues defended him right up until
"The leadership of both Houses of Congress needs a serious
wake up call," says Baker. "You can't preach morality and family
values while you wink and look the other way when one your own
breaks the law."
Andrea Wamstead knows far too well how Congress works. She
worked on the Hill for nearly 20 years before leaving to get
married earlier this year.
"It's a game to a lot of members," she says. "Under the House
rules, a Congressman doesn't have an expense account, per se.
But he can be reimbursed for constituent expenses, so he simply
tabs his regular meals as 'meals with constituents' and gets his
office budget to pay for them. The game is all about how to get
around the rules."
House rules also prohibit the paying of bonuses to employees,
but Members get around this by raising staff member's salaries
by 100 percent or more for one or two months.
In 1983, California Congressman Bob Dornan went to Grenada
with a delegation to review the American military intervention
of the Caribbean island. He tried to leave the island with a
stolen Russian AK-47 in his suitcase, but the weapon was
discovered by U.S. Military Personnel and confiscated.
"He threw a royal hissy fit," says retired Army Sgt. Andy
Mackie, who was on Grenada at the time. "He kept ranting and
raving about how he was a Congressman and if he wanted an AK-47
we had no right to take it from him." The Army kept the weapon
and destroyed it.
In 1982, former New York Congressman Norman Lent tried to
have 50 counterfeit Rolex watches sent to him from Taiwan. When
customs officers in Baltimore seized the shipment, Lent called
the Director of the Customs Service on the carpet and demanded
to know why his watches were taken. The director stood his
ground and the watches were destroyed.
"We're talking about a culture of 'I'm better than everyone
else' and 'I don't have to answer to anyone,'" says Baker. "It
is pervasive and it has been part of the Congressional culture
for a long time. You may hear a lot of talk about accountability
and reform, but it simply is not happening."
Even when a new member of Congress arrives in Washington,
full of idealism about doing a good job, he or she is soon
sucked into the system.
"When members get together in the Republican and Democratic
cloakrooms, they don't talk about legislation or issues," says
former GOP House staff member Jonathan Luckstill. "They brag
about how much money they have raised for their campaign or how
they conned a trade association into an speech invitation to a
convention in Hawaii and turned it into a weeklong vacation.
I've had more than one boss come back to me and want to know why
I wasn't getting him a speech invitation to Hawaii."
Luckstill says the indoctrination also teaches new members
that a crime is only a crime when the other party commits it.
"If a Democrat is caught breaking the law, that's justice,"
he says. "But when a Republican is charged, it's politics."
PoliticsLive asked political scientists,
Constitutional professors and sociologists is they thought the
system could be changed. All agreed it would take drastic steps.
"I'd start by cutting Congressional salaries in half and
limiting House and Senate sessions to 60 days a year," says
Harleigh. "Congressional service should be just that - service,
not a career."
Baker says candidates for Congress should have to be screened
like any prospective employee.
"They should have to undergo extensive background checks as a
requirement for candidacy, both criminal and financial.
Financial disclosure requirements should be strengthened," he
adds. "Voters shouldn't be asked to hire somebody on a promise."
Baker would also like to see an independent Congressional
ethics committee that has the power to investigate members
without control by either party in Congress or the White House.
"Have the committee answer directly to the Supreme Court," he
Baker admits his ideas would drive other Constitutional
experts up the wall because they violate the checks and balances
system that is supposed to exists between the executive,
legislative and judicial branches of government, but adds that
the Supreme Court alreay exercises control over Congress through
its ability to declare laws unconstitutional.
"It would require some changes in constitutional definition,
but that might be what is needed to bring the system under
control," he adds.
Reeves advocates term limits for both members of Congress and
"Some of the staff members on the Hill have been there longer
than any member of Congress," she says.
Most members of Congress claim term limits isn't the answer.
The voters, they say, impose term limits. But they also know
that nine out of all ten incumbents will be re-elected in any
Term limits was part of the "Contract with America" that Newt
Gingrich and the Republican used to help win control of Congress
in the 1994 elections.
However, the GOP soon forgot about term limits when they took
control and several members who vowed to serve only three terms
in 1994 are running for fourth terms in 2000.
"There's a good reason they call it Potomac Fever," says
Baker. "It's contagious and leads to all kinds of problems."
Many on Capitol Hill feel the system must be changed, but few
agree on how it should be done.
As Winston Churchill once said: "Democracy is the worst form
of government imaginable - except for all other forms."
(PoliticsLive editor Jack Sharp, researcher Marilyn
Crosslyn and private investigator James Hargill contributed to