Tuesday, December 18, 2007

CREW Publishes a Top Ten List of Scandals

Washington Post

Tuesday, December 18, 2007; A23

Tough competition for Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington's inaugural list of the year's top 10 ethics scandals. The government watchdog's list, posted at http://www.citizensforethics.org, pays special attention to scandals that appear likely to blow into something bigger next year, said Melanie Sloan, CREW's executive director.

The list "seemed like a good way at the end of the year to keep track of what happened and what's on the horizon," Sloan said. "If a scandal seemed to conclude this year, it's not on the list."

The scandals, with headings taken from the CREW report, are not listed in order of magnitude. They're all pretty bad, the CREW people say.

1. No new enforcement mechanisms for congressional ethics: A House panel convened by Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has yet to come up with recommendations -- originally due in May -- on establishing an independent ethics oversight panel, amid reports of bipartisan resistance.

2. Ted Stevens still sitting on Senate Appropriations: The senator (R-Alaska) and his son Ben are embroiled in a federal corruption probe in their home state.

3. Senate Ethics Committee looking into Sen. Larry Craig, but not Sen. David Vitter: Craig (R-Idaho) is defending himself against charges that he solicited sex from an undercover male law enforcement officer in an airport restroom. Vitter (R-La.) was outed as a client of an alleged prostitution ring run by Deborah Jeane Palfrey, the "D.C. madam," after his phone number appeared in her records.

4. Millions of missing White House e-mails still unaccounted for: CREW and the National Security Archive are seeking information and backup copies of more than 5 million e-mails deleted from White House computer servers between 2003 and 2005.

5. Rep. Murtha's abuse of the earmarking process remains unchecked: Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.) has drawn scrutiny for channeling millions of federal dollars, much of it in defense contracts, to his (formerly) hard-luck district.

6. Lurita Doan remains chief of GSA despite illegal conduct: Lurita Alexis Doan denies allegations that she gave a contract to a longtime friend and was involved in illegal Republican politicking inside the General Services Administration.

7. White House possibly covering up its role in the firings of the U.S. attorneys: Congressional investigations of the firing of nine U.S. attorneys have been stymied as the White House keeps key players, including former White House counsel Harriet Miers and Chief of Staff Josh Bolten, from testifying.

8. No Child Left Behind funds directed to Bush fundraisers who provide inadequate reading materials for kids: A Department of Education inspector general's probe found that Bush-connected companies and donors got contracts for providing reading materials found to be of questionable value.

9. Court decision regarding search of Jefferson's office limits ability of Justice Department to investigate corrupt lawmakers: The federal corruption probe of Rep. William Jefferson (D-La.) experienced a setback this year when an appellate judge ruled that "legislative material" seized in a search of his office cannot be used to prosecute members of Congress.

10. FEMA knowingly let Katrina victims live in hazardous trailers: Records indicate that the Federal Emergency Management Agency had cautioned its workers about trailers contaminated with formaldehyde. But the agency has been accused of delaying testing for the substance in trailers occupied by people left homeless by the hurricane.

-- Elizabeth Williamson

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