Types of corruption

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A lot -- too much -- is made of the Democrat's "culture of corruption" message being hampered by the investigations into two of their own. Corruption is corruption and it's all bad. No argument here. Yet this story from Bloomberg, versions of which have appeared elsewhere, miss the mark in two ways. The Bloomberg analysis claims that the scandals implicating Democratic Reps. William Jefferson of Louisiana and Alan Mollohan of West Virginia hinder their parties crisp, squeaky clean delivery of a broadside against Republicans for fostering a "culture of corruption." To the extent that news outlets continue to write about these examples as one and the same as Tom DeLay's and Duke Cunningham's exploits, it is a self-fulfilling prophesy. But an objective look -- completely aside from partisan politics -- would see DeLay's, Cunningham's, and Abramoff's scandals are web-like, spreading like rot in the national security apparatus, re-engineering districts for partisan, political gain, and a systematic takeover of the pliant lobbying industry. Greasing these skids is money and favors. The real issue for Democrats is that Mollohan has been one of their spokespeople on ethics. Mollohan's and Jefferson's scandals, though, are personal in nature. They don't appear to be involved in, say, helping to line up CIA contracts on the basis of favoritism, not merit, like Cunningham. Or giving away legislative favors to polluters like DeLay has done, in apparent exchange for hundreds of thousands in campaign donations. These later examples are dangerous to all Americans' security and health. Again, I say root out all the corruption. But it doesn't seem quite right to equate Mollohan's diverting appropriations to favored nonprofits, as wrong as it is, for example, with DeLay's corporate-funded redistricting, or Abramoff's bilking of $82 billion from American Indian tribes, or Ralph Reed's taking millions of gambling money to fight gambling to help some casinos protect their profits, or Cunningham's getting favored contractors get defense contracts, and so on. I don't think the Republicans created the culture of corruption but I do think they've perfected it to all of our detriment. Tell me if you think differently.  I don't expect much to change in this regard. The GOP and the press will balance any corruption charge with these two examples. So, I think Democrats will face difficulties since these stories will keep coming. But they can do something about it: propose a significant reform agenda, including policies like clean elections-style public financing, to demonstrate their willingness to tackle these issues. And put this issue front and center as part of the agenda for 2007, win, lose, or draw.