Saturday, May 27, 2006

Ejecting Incumbents

Americans are just as smart as Brits at spotting the corruption of their elected representatives – even before the latest outrage, 83% viewed Congressional corruption as a serious problem. Voters can remedy this in November.

The poll (reported May 17 – WSJ ($)):
...three times as many Americans disapprove of Congress's job-performance as approve, according to last week's Gallup Poll. Those are Congress's lowest numbers since the Democrats were last in power a dozen years ago.

According to Gallup, 83% of Americans view congressional corruption as a serious problem.
And almost half think most are crooks (my emphasis):
Forty-seven percent of Americans think most members of Congress are corrupt, a significant increase from the beginning of this year.

The vast majority of Americans believe corruption in Washington involves both parties equally.
Until last week, I thought that an extreme view – all organizations have some crooks, but that doesn't necessarily mean the entire outfit is crooked.

But events since the poll show the pessimists are right (WSJ - $, my ellipsis & emphasis):
According to numerous press accounts, after videotaping Mr. Jefferson receiving a $100,000 bribe from an FBI informant, the government executed a search warrant of his home and found $90,000 of that money hidden in his freezer. In another case, a Kentucky businessman pleaded guilty to paying Mr. Jefferson $400,000 in bribes for official favors; and one of the congressman's key staff members has already entered a guilty plea to aiding and abetting the bribery of a public official.

Based upon such compelling evidence and Mr. Jefferson's refusal to comply with a subpoena to surrender key documents for eight months, a federal judge issued the search warrant that was executed in the congressman's Capitol Hill office last weekend. The FBI took exceptional measures to ensure that no privileged documents would be surrendered to investigators, with any close calls being made by a federal judge.

One might expect that others in Congress would be grateful that a scoundrel in their midst has apparently been caught red-handed. But there is obviously a more fundamental issue here, as (Republican) House Speaker Dennis Hastert quickly joined forces with (Democratic) Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, not to commend the FBI for its outstanding work, but to vehemently denounce its actions on the theory that members of Congress are above the law.
These scoundrels expect to avoid electoral penalties because:
Due to gerrymandering, fewer than 10% of all House seats are contested in each election cycle...over 90% of House members are guaranteed reelection every two years, due to lack of electoral competition...
...barring major scandal or controversy, about 95% of congressional incumbents win re-election to their seats.
That may be about to change (my emphasis):
..there exist scenarios in which the incumbency factor itself leads to the downfall of the incumbent. Popularly known as the anti-incumbency factor, situations of this kind occur when the incumbent has proven himself not worthy of office during his tenure and the challenger demonstrates this fact to the voters.
Come November, one third of the Senate and the entire House is up for re-election, so Americans can clean house.