When it comes to corruption, cronyism and general muppetry in Washington D.C., the only real question is 'where does one start?' Yet one has to start somewhere to conclude with a list of the ten most corrupt and despicable marionettes in D.C. Which is precisely what JudicialWatch has done in its annual compilation of the "Top 10 Most Corrupt Politicians in Washington D.C." for 2011. And confirming what everyone knows, that both the left and right are merely irrelevant names for the same general social affliction, or should we call it by its true name - wealth pillage - the split is even between democrats and republicans. In no particular order, the winners of 2011 are...
- Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-AL)
- Former Senator John Ensign (R-NV)
- Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-FL)
- Rep. Laura Richardson (D-CA)
- Rep. David Rivera (R-FL)
- Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA)
- Rep. Don Young (R-AK)
- Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. (D-IL)
And of course:
- Attorney General Eric Holder
- President Barack Obama
While a detailed look is really not necessary as we are quite familiar with everyone on ths list, here it is nonetheless?
Spencer Bachus (R-AL): He has become the face of a congressional “insider trading” scandal that has rocked the Washington establishment as 2011 draws to a close. Rep. Spencer Bachus, Chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, was one of the principal targets of a 60 Minutes investigative report on the scandal, which aired on CBS in September 2011.
The report was based, at least in part, on the book Throw Them All Out by author Peter Schweizer, which outed a slew of members of Congress who allegedly profited in the financial markets by trading on insider information. Bachus was not the only congressman cited by 60 Minutes – others included Speaker of the House John Boehner and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi – but the Alabama Republican stood out for his remarkable “good fortune” in shorting the stock market.
According to the allegations made by Schweizer and 60 Minutes, Congressman Bachus, at the time the ranking Republican on the Financial Services Committee, traded short-term stock options in 2008 after receiving a private briefing for congressional leaders by Secretary of the Treasury Hank Paulson and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke. The subject of the briefing: the pending meltdown in the global economy. Those privileged to attend the meeting reportedly sat around a table in Pelosi’s office, having left their cell phones outside the room to avoid leaks.
Congressman Bachus’s aggressive trading practices, in which he was able to benefit by betting on falling stock prices, reportedly earned him substantial profits from some of the 40 trades placed during the months of July through November 2008, many of the trades occurring after the September meeting.
In the wake of the congressional insider trading scandal, legislation banning insider trading is under consideration in Congress. The Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee advanced a bill banning insider trading on December 14, 2011. Similar legislation (pushed by Rep. Bachus himself, obviously to deflect criticism) has stalled in the House. Critics have suggested, and so has the House Ethics Committee, that the law already prohibits insider trading by members of Congress.
Former Senator John Ensign (R-NV): John Ensign, former U.S. Senator from Nevada and former Chairman of the Senate Republican Policy Committee, was forced to resign from office in May 2011 as the result of an investigation by the Senate Ethics Committee. In a scandal that first broke in 2009, Senator Ensign publicly admitted to an affair with the wife of long-time staffer Douglas Hampton. Ensign then allegedly tried to cover up the affair by bribing the couple with lucrative gifts and political favors.
According to The New York Times, after Hampton discovered the affair involving his wife Cynthia, the senator bought his silence by giving him “a strong boost into a lobbying career.” Ensign asked political backers to find Hampton a job. “Payments of $96,000 to the Hamptons also were made by Senator Ensign’s parents, who insist this was a gift, not hush money. Once a lobbying job was secured, Senator Ensign and his chief of staff continued to help Mr. Hampton, advocating his clients’ cases directly with federal agencies.”
These lobbying activities seemingly violated the law related to the Senate’s “cooling off” period for lobbyists. According to Senate rules, former Senate aides “may not lobby the Member for whom he worked or that Member’s staff for a period of one year after leaving [their] position.” Hampton began to lobby Ensign’s office immediately upon leaving his job on Capitol Hill.
In November 2010, the Federal Election Commission dismissed a complaint that Ensign had violated campaign-finance laws, and in December, the Obama Department of Justice announced that it would file no criminal charges against the senator. Ensign, however, was unable to avoid the ongoing investigation by the Senate Ethics Committee. In May 2011, the Senate Ethics Committee issued a devastating report that summarized the evidence against Ensign and made the extraordinary recommendation that the Justice Department reopen a criminal investigation.
Attorney General Eric Holder: Attorney General Eric Holder now operates the most politicized and ideological Department of Justice (DOJ) in recent history. And revelations from the Operation Fast and Furious scandal suggest that programs approved by the Holder DOJ may have resulted in the needless deaths of many, including a federal law enforcement officer.
Fast and Furious was a DOJ/Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) “gun-running” operation in which guns were sold to Mexican drug cartels and others, apparently in hopes that the guns would end up at crime scenes. This reckless insanity seems to have resulted in, among other crimes, the murder of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry, who was killed in a shootout with Mexican criminals in December 2010. Fast and Furious guns were found at the scene of his death.
The Fast and Furious operation by itself should have resulted in Holder’s resignation, but it is the cover-up that has prompted serious calls for Holder’s ouster.
On May 3, 2011, in a House Judiciary Committee hearing chaired by Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), Holder testified: “I’m not sure of the exact date, but I probably heard about Fast and Furious for the first time over the last few weeks.” Newly released documents show he was receiving weekly briefings on Fast and Furious as far back as July 5, 2010. It appears Holder lied to Congress. (Judicial Watch sued the DOJ and the ATF to obtain Fast and Furious records. The Judicial Watch investigation continues.)
Unfortunately, when it comes to Holder corruption and abuse of office, Fast and Furious is just the tip of the iceberg.
On February 23, 2011, Attorney General Eric Holder announced that DOJ lawyers would no longer defend the constitutionality of Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), as applied to homosexual couples. DOMA had passed Congress by a vote of 85–14 in the Senate and a vote of 342–67 in the House. President Clinton signed the act into law on September 21, 1996.
Judicial Watch filed two Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuits against the DOJ (including one on behalf of the Family Research Council) for records related to this pro-homosexual marriage decision. This failure to defend this federal law is unprecedented and raises serious questions as to whether President Obama and Eric Holder are upholding their oaths of office and following the Constitution’s command to “take care that the laws be faithfully executed.”
The DOJ continues to stonewall the release of information regarding Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan’s participation in Obamacare discussions when she served as Solicitor General. In addition to forcing Judicial Watch to file a lawsuit to obtain this information, Holder’s DOJ thumbed its nose at Congress by failing to release this material to the Senate Judiciary Committee during Kagan’s judicial confirmation hearing. Holder continues to personally resist requests from Judicial Watch and Congress for additional information on this controversy. Kagan’s role in these discussions is especially significant now that the U.S. Supreme Court has announced it will consider challenges to the constitutionality of Obamacare in Spring 2012.
New revelations emerged in 2011 about the DOJ’s Black Panther scandal. Judicial Watch uncovered evidence that the liberal special interest group National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) may have had an inappropriate amount of influence on the DOJ’s decision to drop its voter intimidation lawsuit against the New Black Panther Party for Self Defense. This comes on the heels of sworn testimony that the Civil Rights Division of the Holder DOJ makes enforcement decisions based upon race.
Most recently, Judicial Watch obtained shocking documents suggesting the Holder DOJ is conspiring with scandal-ridden Project Vote (President Obama’s former employer and ACORN front) to use the National Voter Registration Act to increase welfare voter registrations. One former ACORN employee (and current Project Vote Director of Advocacy), Estelle Rogers, is even helping to vet job candidates for the Justice Department’s Voting Rights Division! (ACORN and Project Vote have a long record of voter registration fraud.)
Seeming to affirm ACORN’s hijacking of the DOJ, Holder recently said in a speech that he plans to use “the full weight” of the agency in 2012 to attack states that are enforcing laws that protect against fraud in the voting booths. This speech ended the pretense that the DOJ is independent from the Democratic National Committee and the Obama campaign – as it repeated almost verbatim the partisan arguments made by the Democratic Party against voter ID laws.
Holder must go. Pick your reason – Black Panthers, race-based decision making, abandoning the Defense of Marriage Act, Fast and Furious killings and lies, or turning the DOJ into an arm of the radicalized left – but Holder must go.
Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-FL): In a year full of shocking congressional sex scandals, perhaps none is more serious than that involving Florida Rep. Alcee Hastings, who allegedly sexually harassed a female government employee and then engaged in a cruel campaign of retaliation when she rebuffed his advances. (On March 7, 2011, Judicial Watch filed a lawsuit against Hastings on behalf of the victim, Ms. Winsome Packer.)
The alleged harassment and retaliation began in 2008 when Hastings (formerly an impeached federal judge) served as Chairman of the United States Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe. Ms. Packer served as his employee. According to Judicial Watch’s complaint, “Mr. Hastings’ intention was crystal clear: he was sexually attracted to Ms. Packer, wanted a sexual relationship with her, and would help progress her career if she acquiesced to his sexual advances.”
These advances included: Making multiple demands that Ms. Packer allow Rep. Hastings to stay in her apartment while she served as the Commission’s lead staff representative overseas; subjecting Ms. Packer to unwanted physical contact, including hugging her with both arms while pressing his body against her body and his face against her face; inviting her on multiple occasions to accompany him alone to his hotel room; making sexual comments and references to Ms. Packer; and asking Ms. Packer humiliating and inappropriate questions in public, such as “What kind of underwear are you wearing?”
In addition, Hastings seems to have abused his office by using government travel as a cover for sightseeing and by soliciting gifts and campaign contributions from congressional staff.
On November 28, 2011, The House Ethics Committee announced that it will take an additional 45 days to determine whether to launch a full investigation into the allegations against Hastings.
Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. (D-IL) and the Blagojevich Co-Conspirators: It took more than two years and two trials, but disgraced former Illinois Governor Rod “Blago” Blagojevich was finally brought to justice on June 27, 2011, for a number of crimes, including his efforts to “sell” President Obama’s vacant Senate seat to the highest bidder. He became the state’s fourth governor, and one of at least 79 Illinois public officials, to be found guilty of a crime since 1972, proving that Illinois has certainly lived up to its reputation as a cesspool of corruption.
As the trial unfolded, it became clear that many hands were dirty in the Blago scandal. (See Chicago Mayor and former Obama Chief of Staff Rahm “Rahmbo” Emanuel, who was finally forced to testify during this second Blago trial – for a whopping five minutes – and President Obama himself, who was interviewed by the FBI in the scandal even before he took office.)
But all of the focus now seems to center on Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr.
The House Ethics Committee announced on December 2, 2011, that it will continue its investigation into allegations that “Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. or someone acting on his behalf offered to raise campaign cash for then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich in exchange for a Senate appointment in 2008….The committee also released an initial report from the Office of Congressional Ethics that said there was “probable cause” to believe that Jackson either directed a third party or had knowledge of a third party’s effort to convince the since-convicted Blagojevich to appoint Jackson Jr. in exchange for campaign cash.
The evidence suggests Jackson, Jr. attempted to bribe his way into the U.S. Senate. And it will take a monumental lack of attention on the part of the House Ethics Committee to overlook the Illinois Congressman’s role in this serious scandal.
President Barack Obama: President Obama makes Judicial Watch’s “Ten Most Wanted” list for a fifth consecutive year. (The former Illinois Senator was also a “Dishonorable Mention” in 2006.) And when it comes to Obama corruption, it may not get any bigger than Solyndra. Solyndra was once known as the poster child for the Obama administration’s massive “green energy” initiative, but it has become the poster child for the corruption that ensues when the government meddles in the private sector. Solyndra filed for bankruptcy in September 2011, leaving 1,100 workers without jobs and the American taxpayers on the hook for $535 million thanks to an Obama administration stimulus loan guarantee.
Despite the Obama administration’s reticence to release details regarding this scandal, much is known about this shady deal. White House officials warned the president that the Department of Energy’s loan guarantee program was “dangerously short on due diligence,” nonetheless the Obama administration rushed the Solyndra loan through the approval process so it could make a splash at a press event. The company’s main financial backer was a major Obama campaign donor named George Kaiser. While the White House said Kaiser never discussed the loan with White House officials, the evidence suggests this is a lie. And, further demonstrating the political nature of the Obama administration’s activities, the Energy Department pressured Solyndra to delay an announcement on layoffs until after the 2010 elections. Despite the public outrage at this scandalous waste of precious tax dollars, President Obama continues to defend the indefensible and has refused to sack anyone over the Solyndra mess.
President Obama continues to countenance actions by his appointees that undermine the rule of law and constitutional government:
- Despite a ban on funding that Obama signed into law, his administration continues to fund the corrupt and allegedly defunct “community” organization ACORN. In July 2011 Judicial Watch uncovered a $79,819 grant to AHCOA (Affordable Housing Centers of America), the renamed ACORN Housing which has a long history of corrupt activity. In absolute violation of the funding ban, Judicial Watch has since confirmed that the Obama administration has funneled $730,000 to the ACORN network, a group that has a long personal history with President Obama.In 2011, JW released a special report entitled “The Rebranding of ACORN,” which details how the ACORN network is alive and well and well-placed to undermine the integrity of the 2012 elections – evidently with the assistance of the Obama administration.
- Barack Obama apparently believes it is his “prerogative” to ignore the U.S. Constitution and the rule of law when it comes to appointing czars. According to Politico: “President Barack Obama is planning to ignore language in the 2011 spending package that would ban several top White House advisory posts. Obama said this ban on “czars” would undermine “the President’s ability to exercise his constitutional responsibilities and take care that the laws be faithfully executed.” In other words, Barack Obama believes he must ignore the U.S. Constitution to protect the U.S. Constitution. Many Obama administration czars have not been subject to confirmation by the U.S. Senate as required by the U.S. Constitution. In 2011, JW released a first-of-its-kind comprehensive report on the Obama czar scandal, entitled “President Obama’s Czars.”
- In an historic victory for Judicial Watch and an embarrassing defeat for the Obama White House, a federal court ruled on August 17, 2011 that Secret Service White House visitor logs are agency records that are subject to disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act. U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell issued the decision in Judicial Watch v. Secret Service. The Obama administration now will have to release all records of all visitors to the White House – or explain why White House visits should be kept secret under the law. The Obama White House continues to fight full disclosure and has stalled the release of records by appealing the lower court decision.(Judicial Watch gave Obama a “failing grade” on transparency in testimony before Congress in 2011. (Read the testimony in full as well as additional congressional testimony during a hearing entitled “White House Transparency, Visitor Logs and Lobbyists.”))
- In 2011, the Obama National Labor Relations Board sought to prevent the Seattle-based Boeing Company from opening a $750 million non-union assembly line in North Charleston, South Carolina, to manufacture its Dreamliner plane. Judicial Watch obtained documents from the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) showing this lawsuit was politically motivated. Judicial Watch uncovered documents showing NLRB staff cheerleading for Big Labor, mouthing Marxist, anti-American slurs and showing contempt for Congress related to the agency’s lawsuit against Boeing, including email correspondence attacking members of Congress. And it starts at the top. Obama bypassed Congress and recess-appointed Craig Becker, who is connected to the AFL-CIO, the SEIU and ACORN, to the NRLB.
- Obama’s corrupt Chicago dealings continued to haunt him in 2011.Obama’s real estate partner, campaign fundraiser and Obama pork recipient Antoin “Tony” Rezko was finally sentenced to jail this year as was former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, who is now set to serve 14 years for attempting to sell Obama’s former Senate seat to the highest bidder. The FBI continues to withhold from Judicial Watch documents of its historic interview of then-Senator Obama about the Illinois corruption scandal. The FBI interview was conducted in December, 2008, about one month before Obama was sworn into the presidency.
Rep. Laura Richardson (D-CA): A first-timer on Judicial Watch’s “Ten Most Wanted” list, Rep. Laura Richardson is in hot water for reportedly misusing her congressional staff for personal and political gain. Rep. Richardson is now under investigation by the House Ethics Committee regarding allegations by former staff member Maria Angel Macias. Macias alleges that she was required by Richardson to order other staffers to run personal errands for the Democrat congresswoman – such as picking up her dry cleaning – and to work on her re-election campaign at taxpayer expense.
Richardson’s alleged behavior would violate federal law, which protects federal employees from “being forced by job-related threats or reprisals to donate to political candidates or causes.” House ethics rules also specify that “in no event may a member or office compel a House employee to do campaign work.”
Macias indicated to the Committee that Richardson regularly directed her to call staff members outside of office hours to “make them work at campaign events.” According to former employees, they were required to work the extended hours “under threat of dismissal,” and reportedly, were even required to act as servers at such events. Shirley Cooks, chief of staff for Representative Richardson, was also directed to ensure that staff members “volunteered” for off-hour campaign projects.
Rep. Richardson has responded by denying that she has ever forced employees to volunteer on campaigns, and then played the “race card,” claiming she is being targeted because she is black and because she is a woman. Richardson has further indicated that she would explore whether the Ethics Committee “has engaged in discriminatory conduct”… which is a blatant attempt to intimidate committee members and undermine the investigation.
Richardson is not new to controversy and investigations of ethics violations. Complaints against her include commandeering emergency helicopters in her California district for use as sightseeing vehicles for her staff and of her receiving special treatment when a bank rescinded the sale of a foreclosed home Rep. Richardson owned in Sacramento and then restructured her mortgage. (This was the third home on which Rep. Richardson had missed payments.)
The House Ethics Committee failed to punish her over the foreclosure deal (no surprises there) and approximately one year later Richardson again defaulted on her payments. True to form, however, Richardson failed to take responsibility for her actions, claiming the default was due to a “clerical error.”
Rep. David Rivera (R-FL): Rep. David Rivera, U.S. Representative for Florida’s 25th congressional district, is mired in numerous ethics controversies stemming from charges of money laundering and tax evasion schemes initiated when Rivera served in the Florida House of Representatives. The Republican congressman, serving his first term, is currently under investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the Miami-Dade Police public corruption unit, and the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s office.
Of particular interest is the investigation by the FBI and the IRS regarding Rep. Rivera’s dealings with the Flagler Dog Track, now known as the Magic City Casino. The basis for the investigation relates to payments reportedly totaling as much as $1 million made by the casino to Millennium Marketing in the guise of a consulting contract. Most of the money is said to have been paid in 2008.
Millennium Marketing is owned by Rivera’s mother and godmother, and Rivera supposedly benefited from the arrangement, and is thus the subject of a tax evasion inquiry. Income from the consulting contract was never reported by Rivera on his tax forms, nor did he mention the Millennium deal in financial disclosure forms filed with the Florida Ethics Commission. Instead, Rivera indicated that he had worked as a consultant for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), in addition to being a member of the Florida House of Representatives. He reported no income for USAID, however, and the agency had no record of his having ever worked there.
For a long time, Rep. Rivera denied ever receiving any income from the dog track, but just before heading to Congress, Rivera admitted receiving $132,000 in “undisclosed loans” from Millennium. He claims he paid the money back.
Participating in the dog track inquiry – and at one time having had the lead on the case – is the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, assisted by the Miami-Dade Police. Investigators are also taking a close look at Rivera’s campaign spending, including $75,000 he paid in 2010 “to a now-defunct consulting company owned by the daughter of a top aide.”
In August 2010, an investigative subcommittee of the House Ethics Committee charged Rep. Waters with three counts of violating House rules and ethics regulations in connection with her use of power and influence on behalf of OneUnited Bank. She was expected to face an ethics trial in late 2010, but the committee delayed the trial indefinitely on November 29, 2010, citing newly discovered documentary evidence that may impact proceedings.
The delay apparently has less to do with evidence and more to do with infighting on the panel. Ultimately, an outside counsel was retained and a recommendation was expected by January 2, 2012. However, the Committee announced that the Waters probe will be extended until July 31, 2012.
According to The Associated Press, the charges currently under the House Ethics Committee microscope “focus on whether Waters broke the rules in requesting federal help [bailout money] for a bank where her husband owned stock and had served on the board of directors.” At the time she requested the help, Waters neglected to tell Treasury officials about her financial ties to OneUnited Bank.
Without intervention by Waters (and a big assist from her co-conspirator Rep. Barney Frank), OneUnited was an extremely unlikely candidate for Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) funding. The Treasury Department indicated that it would only provide bailout funds to healthy banks to jump-start lending. However, Judicial Watch uncovered documents detailing the deplorable financial condition of OneUnited at the time of the cash infusion. In fact, just prior to the bailout, OneUnited received a “less than satisfactory rating.”
Aside from OneUnited, there was yet another scandal with Waters’ fingerprints all over it.
According to The Washington Times: “A lobbyist known as one of California’s most successful power brokers while serving as a legislative leader in that state paid Rep. Maxine Waters’ husband $15,000 in consulting fees at a time she was co-sponsoring legislation that would help save the real-estate finance business of one of the lobbyist’s best-paying clients…”
“Real-estate finance businesses,” such as the one helped by Waters’ influence, were labeled a “scam” by the IRS in a 2006 report.
Despite all of her ethical woes, Maxine Waters seeks to take over the retiring Barney Frank’s position as the ranking Democrat on the House Financial Services Committee. It is quite obvious that Rep. Waters has neither the integrity nor the ethics necessary to hold such a position of public trust.
Rep. Don Young (R-AK): Rep. Don Young may have achieved a new level of corruption in 2011. The House Ethics Committee announced just before Christmas that the Alaska Republican Congressman was cleared of allegations by the House Ethics Committee that he exceeded the limit on campaign donations to his legal defense fund – which was set up to defend Young against an entirely different set of corruption charges! There was good reason the House Ethics Committee released this decision after most of official Washington left for the Christmas holiday: because the Committee’s “exoneration” is a joke.
House ethics rules prohibit contributions from any single source that exceed $5,000. Young received $63,000 from “twelve companies that…were in fact owned by Gary Chouest, his wife, and his five children, or some combination of those seven individuals.” Despite an independent analysis by the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) that the shell-game was a rather transparent violation of the contribution limit, the House Ethics Committee gave Young a free pass because the 12 companies controlled by essentially one individual were “separate legal entities”!
On July 24, 2007, the Wall Street Journal reported that Young was under federal investigation for taking bribes, illegal gratuities, and unreported gifts from VECO Corporation, an Anchorage, Alaska- based company. Two executives in the company, including former company CEO Bill Allen, had already pled guilty to bribing members of the Alaska legislature. Reportedly, Young received $157,000 from VECO.
Rep. Young has developed a legendary reputation for steering federal dollars to Alaska. As The New Republic put it, Rep. Young is “well known for his sharp elbows and generous appetite for legislative pork,” including the $223 million he secured to build the so-called “Bridge to Nowhere.” Eventually, lawmakers responded to the mounting criticism and the bridge was defunded.
Over the years, Rep. Young has been linked to lobbyist Jack Abramoff’s illegal efforts to lease government property, and he has been criticized for adding a $10 million earmark to a transportation bill for a short piece of road in Florida near Fort Myers, called Coconut Road. The local real estate developer who owned 4,000 acres along the road helped raise $40,000 for Young’s campaign, which might go a long way toward explaining why the Alaska congressman aggressively pushed to build a road in Florida.
For more on the list, including the 10 dishonorable mentions, read here.