Washington’s Worst: McConnell and 14 Other Corrupt Lawmakers

Photo used under Creative Commons license by Flickr user <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/nopunintended/">leon~</a>.

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Last week Stephanie asked, “Where’s Mitch McConnell?” Well, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington has just released its fifth annual report on the 15 most corrupt members of Congress, and the good-government group has an answer: misusing his nonprofit and handing out favors to former clients and staffers.

Senate Minority Leader McConnell, the highest ranking elected Republican, is no stranger to CREW’s survey of the seamy side of Washington. He’s been on the list the past two years as well. This year’s list features five new members: Senators Roland Burris and John Ensign; Representatives Nathan Deal, Jesse Jackson, Jr. and Pete Visclosky; and, after a two year absence, Rep. Maxine Waters.

Although Democrats outnumber Republicans on this year’s list, Republicans punch well above their weight in this congressional corruption survey, with seven GOP lawmakers on the list, which can be viewed below in its entirety. The full report and individual dossiers on those named and shamed can be viewed at the special site CREW has set up to publicize its findings.

McConnell is one of only three lawmakers on CREW’s list who are not currently facing a formal investigation. Which leads to a bigger question posed by annual reports like this: Why do other public servants (police officers, district attorneys, etc.) have to take a leave of absence when they are implicated in ethical violations but lawmakers like Rep. John Murtha can keep passing out the pork for years under the cloud of federal investigation?

CREW’s Top 15 Most Corrupt Members of Congress

Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-Fla.)

Sen. Roland Burris (D-Ill.)

Rep. Ken Calvert (R-Calif.)

Rep. Nathan Deal (R-Ga.)

Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.)

Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. (D-Ill.)

Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-Calif.)

Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.)

Rep. Alan Mollohan (D-W.Va.)

Rep. John Murtha (D-Penn.)

Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.)

Rep. Laura Richardson (D-Calif.)

Rep. Pete Visclosky (D-Ind.)

Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.)

Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska)

UPDATE: Commenter Lonkie’s says that asking lawmakers to step down could lead to “lots of BS investigations.” But 8 of the 12 members of Congress on CREW’s list are being investigation by the Federal Elections Commission and the Department of Justice, both of which—in the post-Bush era—are supposed to be nonpartisan bodies. Lonkie’s concern might be more legitimate in the case of Congressional Ethics Committee investigations. In theory, it should still be easy enough to require members to step aside only if they are under investigation by a nonpartisan body (like the FEC). Members of Congress have armies of well-trained staff that could carry on without their potentially guilty figurehead.

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

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It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

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Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

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