Scandal’s sordid stain

    As is
    frequently observed of the young idealists who flock to the nation’s
    capital, “They came to do good and stayed to do well.” Former House
    Speaker Newt Gingrich applies it to the Republican Revolution he led in
    1994.

    And, as pundit Andrew Ferguson said in an article reflecting
    conservatives’ dismay that the Republicans who had come to Washington
    to drain the swamp were instead wallowing it in, “Sometime around 1995,
    Republicans in Washington stopped using the term ‘Beltway Bandits.’ “

    The culmination of the realization that with victory go spoils was
    then-House GOP leader Tom DeLay’s “K Street Project,” in which
    Congress’ most powerful Republican basically told corporations and
    trade associations, “If you your legislation passed, your voice heard
    on Capitol Hill, hire GOP lobbyists and donate to GOP campaigns.” Even
    by Washington standards, this was pretty brazen.

    One who
    responded to that offer was an aggressive and resourceful lobbyist
    named Jack Abramoff, who hired two of DeLay’s top aides and began a
    cash-fueled campaign of lavish trips, luxury boxes and entertainment
    for lawmakers on behalf of his clients, mostly casino-owning Indian
    tribes.

    On Tuesday, Abramoff plea bargained to three felonies _
    fraud, tax evasion and conspiracy to bribe Rep. Robert Ney of Ohio, one
    of the ’94 Republican revolutionaries but now comfortably installed as
    chairman of a House committee.

    Earlier, ex-DeLay aide and former
    Abramoff partner, Michael Scanlon, pleaded guilty to conspiring to
    bribe members of Congress and, like his old boss, he too is cooperating
    with federal prosecutors.

    Across Washington, politicians _
    including President Bush and GOP House Speaker Dennis Hastert _ were
    returning or donating to charity campaign contributions from
    Abramoff-related donors. And all of Washington, as the saying goes, is
    waiting for the other shoe to drop.

    News accounts say testimony
    has already implicated half a dozen House and Senate members plus
    congressional staffers and executive branch officials. The scandal has
    already peripherally brushed the presidency in September when the White
    House’s chief procurement officer, David Safavian, resigned after being
    charged with lying and obstruction in the Abramoff probe.

    Although some Democrats may have been involved, this scandal is so far
    largely a Republican one. The party’s image was further tarnished
    recently when GOP Rep. Randy Cunningham resigned after pleading guilty
    to accepting $2.4 million in bribes from defense contractors in an
    unrelated case.

    “Revolution” was always a grandiose term to
    describe the GOP’s congressional takeover, but it does seem to prove
    the adage that revolutionaries eventually become the people they
    rebelled against.

    The Washington Post has called this “the
    biggest corruption scandal to infect Congress in a generation.” Whether
    “biggest” remains to be seen, but influence-peddling bids fair to be
    the capital’s oldest scandal. They came to do good. Stayed to do well.
    And some got indicted.

    (Contact Dale McFeatters at McFeattersD(at)SHNS.com. Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service, http://www.shns.com)