Didn't the Democrats promise us an end to muck?
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Yet mucked-up politicians keep surfacing as the new House majority struggles to choose its leaders. Last week, questionable corporate cozier Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD) beat out Rep. John "No bribes for me -- right now" Murtha (D-PA) to be House majority leader.
Now, a battle royale is brewing over who's going to lead the House intelligence committee, and it too is hardly muck-free: one of the leading contenders for the position is a former federal judge who was impeached by Congress, while the other is under FBI investigation for improper relations with a lobby organization sporting foreign ties.
Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-FL), with backing from the Congressional Black Caucus, may be the frontrunner for the position, if only because the would-be chair, Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA), is on the outs with the woman who gets to choose, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
But Hastings has a past that seriously compromises his candidacy: In 1989, the Senate found Hastings guilty of soliciting a $150,000 bribe from defendants facing trial in his courtroom eight years earlier. Unlike some recent scandals, this was believed to have been a pretty simple scam: In exchange for the bribe, Hastings would throw the case.
Hastings' alleged accomplice, William Borders, was sent to prison for the scam. The evidence against Hastings himself was serious, but circumstantial -- a cryptic phone call, a fortuitous appearance at a restaurant on a certain date and time -- so he was acquitted of criminal charges. But a bipartisan congressional prosecution and impeachment removed him from the federal bench. (More on this later.)