As we move into an exciting – and unpredictable – period of hoped-for reform to confront widespread corruption in Congress, it stands to reason that some members are feeling a bit nervous and saying some, uh, kinda dumb things. Tops on our list today – Sen. Conrad Burns (R-Mont.) and Rep. Ney. (R-Ohio).
Sen. Burns has the dubious distinction of having taken more campaign cash from clients of indicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff than any other member of Congress. In his attempts to pull himself out of the ethical muck, he has tried to give the money away to Native American tribes in Montana (unsuccessfully, as we reported in a previous blog), as well as signing on as a co-sponsor of Sen. John McCain’s reform legislation. After doing this, though, he bizarrely told the Billings Gazette editorial board that the legislation "doesn’t make a lot of changes." Thanks, Conrad – way to push that reform effort! (A list of links between Burns and Abramoff can be found in an AP article describing the state Republican party’s twisted attempt to distort an online poll on Montanans’ attitudes toward Burns.)
Senator Burns says he’s never had so much energy to campaign as he’s got for his upcoming reelection. As the Gazette wisely suggests, perhaps the good Senator should put some of that energy into cleaning up the mess in Congress, rather than running down the limited efforts he seems willing to make.
Not to be outdone is Rep. Ney, who is one of the few members of Congress specifically singled out (so far) in the Justice Department probe of Abramoff (Ney has admitted to being "Representative #1" in documents that describe legislative favors he did in return for contributions and gifts). Responding to comments by Ohio Republican Chairman Bob Bennett that he should resign if indicted, Ney told The Hill that "I’m running — if I’m indicted, I’m running."
We can hear the campaign ads already: "I’m Bob Ney. I’m indicted, and I’m running for Congress." With political instincts like this, you can sort of see how some of these folks got themselves into the trouble they’re in….