CREW's top ten political scandals of the year 

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington have released a list of their top ten political scandals of the year. I'd quibble a bit noting that some scandals left off the list are bigger than a few they did include, but all of the behavior below is deplorable:

# The federal pay czar’s less-than-successful effort to stop those financial firms that received TARP funds from paying out excessive bonuses to top executives.


# The SEC failed to stop Bernie Madoff’s ponzi scheme for 16 years, despite clear warnings.


# Prosecutors will likely lose an important tool in targeting public corruption as the Supreme Court appears on the brink of gutting the honest services fraud statute, which has been used to convict Jack Abramoff, former Rep. William Jefferson (D-LA) and many others.


# Violations of federal campaign finance law are going unpunished as a result of a gridlocked and toothless Federal Election Commission.


# The myriad criminal and ethics violations committed by Sen. John Ensign (R-NV) to cover up his affair with a campaign staffer married to a member of his office staff.


# Gov. Mark Sanford (R-SC) left his state without leadership and lied to staff to disappear to Argentina to conduct an extramarital affair. Even worse, this budget hawk seems to have misused state funds to facilitate the affair.


# Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-NY), the chair of the tax writing committee, found it too difficult to make sure his own tax forms and financial disclosure forms were accurate. He also violated a host of other ethics rules, making clear he believes rules are for other people.


# Senators continue to use secret holds to stall legislation and nominations, despite voting to ban the practice in 2007 in the ironically named Honest Leadership and Open Government Act.


# Earmarks continue to be exchanged for campaign contributions, as the investigation into the PMA Group’s contributions to a number of House members, including Defense Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman John Murtha (D-PA), demonstrates.


# Despite vows to “drain the swamp” and the creation of the Office of Congressional Ethics, not a single representative was publicly reprimanded or sanctioned by the House ethics committee this year, though offenders remain plentiful.

UPDATE: Instead of saying "all of the behavior below is deplorable," I should have mentioned that I'm not sure I agree with CREW that gutting the broad honest services fraud statute is disconcerting. But the purpose of these lists is to spark discussion, right? So feel free to disagree with other aspects of the list in the comments.

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Mark Hemingway

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