U.S. watchdog group lists "most corrupt members of Congress"

Friday, October 7, 2005

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) [1], a U.S. legislative watchdog group, has released a report attempting to document the unethical and illegal activities of who they are calling the "most tainted members of Congress". In describing the reasons for the report Melanie Sloan, executive director of CREW said, "[CREW] was compelled to research and release a report on these corrupt members because the ethics committees in both the House and Senate are completely inert. The report calls for the House and Senate to act to investigate and take appropriate action against them for these violations of the rules." She went on to attack both parties regarding ethics, "Democrats are just as much to blame as Republicans for the current ethics deadlock. The Democrats won't file ethics complaints against even the most egregious violators like DeLay and Ney…. The Democrats are spineless."

The report covers possible violations of federal laws, as well as congressional ethics rules. To compile the report, CREW drew upon Federal Election Commission (FEC) reports and audits, sworn testimony, emails, and personal financial and travel disclosure forms. By analyzing that information, CREW then attempted to determine if the member's activities violated federal laws, regulations, or congressional ethics rules. The 13 members of Congress covered are:

The report is entitled "Beyond DeLay: The 13 Most Corrupt Members of Congress", seeking to capitalize on the current media attention on ethics that has come about due to the indictments of former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay. However, the report does not cover any of Tom Delay's ethics problems, nor does it have any information on his current legal problems.

The report was criticized by the office of Rick Renzi, one of the congressmen listed, arguing that CREW are biased and pursuing a political agenda. "This group is run by one of the biggest Democratic Party donors in the nation and is a mouthpiece for its fierce political attacks," said Renzi's office in a statement. "The group's biased accusations show the campaign season is starting early."

Representative Burns, also one of the representatives named in the report, responded through spokesman James Pendleton calling CREW's report "pure politics." The press secretary for Representative Bob Ney, also named in the CREW report, said, "We don't give Melanie Sloan and her liberal organization an ounce of credibility."

Both Members of the House whose residences have been searched as part of a criminal investigation, Cunningham and Jefferson, are included on the list. Burns, Ney, and Feeney are cited for their dealings with lobbyist Jack Abramoff. 11 out of the 13 named representatives are Republicans.