Normally I like to read year-end Top Ten lists mostly for their entertainment value, but rarely feel compelled to comment on them.  I’ll make an exception for this list from Judicial Watch, which names and explains their selections of the top ten most corrupt politicians inside the Beltway.  Heading the list:

1. Senator Christopher Dodd (D-CT): This marks two years in a row for Senator Dodd, who made the 2008 “Ten Most Corrupt” list for his corrupt relationship with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and for accepting preferential treatment and loan terms from Countrywide Financial, a scandal which still dogs him.  In 2009, the scandals kept coming for the Connecticut Democrat.  In 2009, Judicial Watch filed a Senate ethics complaint against Dodd for undervaluing a property he owns in Ireland on his Senate Financial Disclosure forms.  Judicial Watch’s complaint forced Dodd to amend the forms.  However, press reports suggest the property to this day remains undervalued.  Judicial Watch also alleges in the complaint that Dodd obtained a sweetheart deal for the property in exchange for his assistance in obtaining a presidential pardon (during the Clinton administration) and other favors for a long-time friend and business associate.  The false financial disclosure forms were part of the cover-up.  Dodd remains the head the Senate Banking Committee.

2. Senator John Ensign (R-NV): A number of scandals popped up in 2009 involving public officials who conducted illicit affairs, and then attempted to cover them up with hush payments and favors, an obvious abuse of power.  The year’s worst offender might just be Nevada Republican Senator John Ensign.  Ensign admitted in June to an extramarital affair with the wife of one of his staff members, who then allegedly obtained special favors from the Nevada Republican in exchange for his silence.  According to The New York Times:  “The Justice Department and the Senate Ethics Committee are expected to conduct preliminary inquiries into whether Senator John Ensign violated federal law or ethics rules as part of an effort to conceal an affair with the wife of an aide…”  The former staffer, Douglas Hampton, began to lobby Mr. Ensign’s office immediately upon leaving his congressional job, despite the fact that he was subject to a one-year lobbying ban.  Ensign seems to have ignored the law and allowed Hampton lobbying access to his office as a payment for his silence about the affair.  (These are potentially criminal offenses.)   It looks as if Ensign misused his public office (and taxpayer resources) to cover up his sexual shenanigans.

3. Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA): Judicial Watch is investigating a $12 million TARP cash injection provided to the Boston-based OneUnited Bank at the urging of Massachusetts Rep. Barney Frank.  As reported in the January 22, 2009, edition of the Wall Street Journal, the Treasury Department indicated it would only provide funds to healthy banks to jump-start lending.  Not only was OneUnited Bank in massive financial turmoil, but it was also “under attack from its regulators for allegations of poor lending practices and executive-pay abuses, including owning a Porsche for its executives’ use.”  Rep. Frank admitted he spoke to a “federal regulator,” and Treasury granted the funds.  (The bank continues to flounder despite Frank’s intervention for federal dollars.)  Moreover, Judicial Watch uncovered documents in 2009 that showed that members of Congress for years were aware that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were playing fast and loose with accounting issues, risk assessment issues and executive compensation issues, even as liberals led by Rep. Frank continued to block attempts to rein in the two Government Sponsored Enterprises (GSEs).  For example, during a hearing on September 10, 2003, before the House Committee on Financial Services considering a Bush administration proposal to further regulate Fannie and Freddie, Rep. Frank stated:  “I want to begin by saying that I am glad to consider the legislation, but I do not think we are facing any kind of a crisis.  That is, in my view, the two Government Sponsored Enterprises we are talking about here, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, are not in a crisis. We have recently had an accounting problem with Freddie Mac that has led to people being dismissed, as appears to be appropriate.  I do not think at this point there is a problem with a threat to the Treasury.”  Frank received $42,350 in campaign contributions from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac between 1989 and 2008.  Frank also engaged in a relationship with a Fannie Mae Executive while serving on the House Banking Committee, which has jurisdiction over Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Ensign turns out to be the only Republican on the list.  That’s not much of a surprise, since Republicans don’t hold any power in Washington at the moment.  Why buy a politician who can’t sell out on anything important?  In these tough times, lobbyists and special interests have to watch every dollar, too.  However, if one includes Ensign — and it’s hard to dispute the stench coming from this situation — then JW should have included Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) as well.  After all, the shenanigans that resulted in a push to make his girlfriend a US Attorney, who got paid per diems for accompanying Baucus on junkets and ended up with a cushy and ambiguous job at the DoJ, look like an abuse of power as well, and are at the same stage of being proven as the allegations against Ensign.

Otherwise, it’s hard to quibble with the rest of the list:

  • Tim Geithner
  • Eric Holder
  • Rep. Jesse Jackson and Se. Roland Burris (a tie)
  • Barack Obama
  • Nancy Pelosi
  • John Murtha and the PMA Seven
  • Charles Rangel

How did Obama get ahead of Rangel, Murtha, and Pelosi?  Here’s the JW explanation [see Update below]:

7. President Barack Obama: During his presidential campaign, President Obama promised to run an ethical and transparent administration.  However, in his first year in office, the President has delivered corruption and secrecy, bringing Chicago-style political corruption to the White House.  Consider just a few Obama administration “lowlights” from year one:  Even before President Obama was sworn into office, he was interviewed by the FBI for a criminal investigation of former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich’s scheme to sell the President’s former Senate seat to the highest bidder.  (Obama’s Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and slumlord Valerie Jarrett, both from Chicago, are also tangled up in the Blagojevich scandal.)  Moreover, the Obama administration made the startling claim that the Privacy Act does not apply to the White House. The Obama White House believes it can violate the privacy rights of American citizens without any legal consequences or accountability. President Obama boldly proclaimed that “transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency,” but his administration is addicted to secrecy, stonewalling far too many of Judicial Watch’s Freedom of Information Act requests and is refusing to make public White House visitor logs as federal law requires.  The Obama administration turned the National Endowment of the Arts (as well as the agency that runs the AmeriCorps program) into propaganda machines, using tax dollars to persuade “artists” to promote the Obama agenda.  According to documents uncovered by Judicial Watch, the idea emerged as a direct result of the Obama campaign and enjoyed White House approval and participation.  President Obama has installed a record number of “czars” in positions of power.  Too many of these individuals are leftist radicals who answer to no one but the president.  And too many of the czars are not subject to Senate confirmation (which raises serious constitutional questions).  Under the President’s bailout schemes, the federal government continues to appropriate or control — through fiat and threats — large sectors of the private economy, prompting conservative columnist George Will to write:  “The administration’s central activity — the political allocation of wealth and opportunity — is not merely susceptible to corruption, it is corruption.”  Government-run healthcare and car companies, White House coercion, uninvestigated ACORN corruption, debasing his office to help Chicago cronies, attacks on conservative media and the private sector, unprecedented and dangerous new rights for terrorists, perks for campaign donors – this is Obama’s “ethics” record — and we haven’t even gotten through the first year of his presidency.

Corruption in the legislative branch is bad enough, but it’s worse when it occurs in the executive branch, especially when one party controls both.  The law-enforcement mechanisms report eventually to the President, and a Congress controlled by Democrats is not likely to investigate executive corruption when a Democrat is President.

I’d have included Harry Reid on this list after his spending spree to buy ObamaCare votes, and perhaps have dropped Eric Holder, whose actions seem more incompetent and ideological than actually corrupt.  But it’s still an impressive list, impressively supported, and a good springboard for discussion about the Culture of Corruption and its ministers.

Update: I missed the intro where JW explains that this list is presented in alphabetical order.  Bummer.  I kind of liked the ranking JW supplied here.