Thursday, December 24, 2009

10 Worse Ethics Scandals Of 2009

As a Promise Keeper, Ensign pledges himself a man of integrity
As a Promise Keeper, Ensign pledges himself a man of integrity

As the year - and the decade - draws to a close - it's time for all those "best of" and "worst of" lists to appear.

Here's a dubious one. The 10 worst ethics scandals of 2009.

It comes to us by way of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington and it features ethical lapses in both the legislative and executive branches of the federal government.

CREW’s third annual Top Ten Ethics Scandals list does not attempt to rank these scandals in a particular order:

* 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.

Melanie Sloan, executive director of CREW, said, “2009 was no exception; there was no shortage of ethics scandals to choose from. It would be nice if 2010 proved to be the year politicians put Americans’ interests above their own, but I won’t hold my breath.”


Photo/Mike Licht,

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