By Peter Roff, Thomas Jefferson Street blog
Feeding the perception that corrupt public officials were running rampant in the halls of Congress was an important part of the Democrats' plan to retake control of the federal government in 2006 and 2008. The Jack Abramoff scandal, the resignation of Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham, and the embarrassing but apparently not criminal conduct of former U.S. Rep. Mark Foley, R-Fla., all helped to convince voters that the GOP had grown fat and happy during its years in the majority and needed to be replaced.
It's a powerful argument but it also cuts both ways, something the Democrats are now going to have to deal with going into the next election.
The voters apparently cared little, in a national sense, about the activities of former U.S. Rep. William Jefferson, D-La., who was caught with bundles of cash in a freezer. Or about the relationship between Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., and other members of Congress and a now defunct Washington lobbying firm that is still being unraveled. Nothing has yet reached critical mass in that it is effecting national elections, but the tide may be turning.
The pay-to-play scandal involving former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich's plan to "fundraise" off his obligation to fill the U.S. Senate seat made vacant by Barack Obama's election to the presidency certainly hamstringed the new administration during the transition period. The revelation that juicy political contracts are being let to Chicago-based firms tied to senior presidential counselor David Axelrod is not helping the push to pass healthcare reform.
On its face, the relationship between Axelrod and the firms is suspect. The Associated Press reported on August 20:
Coalitions of interest groups running at least $24 million in pro-overhaul ads hired GMMB, which worked for Obama's 2008 campaign and whose partners include a top Obama campaign strategist. They also hired AKPD Message and Media, which was founded by David Axelrod, a top adviser to Obama's campaign and now to the White House. AKPD did work for Obama's campaign, and Axelrod's son Michael and Obama's campaign manager David Plouffe work there.
The White House denies there is anything wrong here but it remains a fact that, as the AP also reported, "AKPD owes (Axelrod) $2 million from his stock sale and will make preset payments over four years, starting with $350,000 on Dec. 31, according to Axelrod's personal financial disclosure report."
If that were not enough, another unfolding political scandal threatens to envelop other senior Democrats. According to Bloomberg, Hassan Nemazee, the chairman of Nemazee Capital Corp., has "been arrested on charges he used phony documents to trick Citigroup Inc. into lending him as much as $74 million. "
Nemazee is one of the Democratic Party's leading fundraisers, having raked in the campaign cash for a number of prominent Democrats and their political organizations. When Sen. John F. Kerry, D-Mass., ran for president, Nemazee was his New York State finance chairman. When Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., ran the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, Nemazee was its finance chairman. And, according to Bloomberg, Nemazee provided a serious revenue stream to President Obama and to Hillary Clinton, raising at least $100,000 for Clinton and then bringing in "at least $500,000 for Obama after he defeated her in the primary."
Nemazee was a serious player in Democratic Party politics with connections to a number of important party leaders. Though, in the legal sense he is innocent of the charges against him until the government can prove him guilty the fact is that, in the court of public opinion, his arrest is more bad news for the Democrats.