Two federal inquiries into Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist's stock sales have handed Democrats a chance to broaden their long-stated claim that Republicans push ethical boundaries and focus on laws that help the rich, political analysts said yesterday.If the Democrats don't pound the corruption issue every single day of the 2006 campaign, then it's official that they're being led by retarded eunuchs. The GOP turned a bogus check-bouncing scandal in the House into a cause for throwing the bums out back in '92 and '94, but now we're talking about much bigger problems for much bigger politicians. I mean, when's the last time the Senate Majority Leader and the House Majority Leader were both involved in ethics scandals at the same time? Much less at the same time the president of the same party was sinking faster than Rosemary Clooney in the Poseidon Adventure?
Until now, such accusations have centered on the House and White House. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (Tex.) has been chastised three times by the chamber's ethics committee, and a Texas grand jury recently indicted a political action committee he had organized. The Bush administration's top federal procurement official, David H. Safavian, was arrested last week on charges of obstructing a criminal investigation into lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who has close ties to DeLay and other prominent GOP lawmakers.
Now, with the revelation that federal prosecutors and the Securities and Exchange Commission are looking into Frist's sale of hospital stock shortly before its value fell, Democrats are expanding their ethics accusations into the Senate's GOP leadership ranks.
Activists in both parties agree it is much too early to say whether Frist (R-Tenn.) engaged in insider trading, a charge that could cripple his 2008 presidential hopes. But the mere launch of inquiries by the SEC and the Justice Department allows Democrats to claim that both House and Senate majority leaders operate under ethical clouds.
"It is a drip, drip, drip," said former House majority leader Tony Coelho (D-Calif.), who knows the corrosive power of ethics charges. Coelho, who resigned in 1989 following accusations about a loan deal, said, "With DeLay and now Frist, it's a buildup of arrogance of power. . . . With [President] Bush's numbers down, this could be a very negative thing for the Republicans."
And please don't tell me that voters won't care about Frist's actions. He did exactly what Martha Stewart did, and what's good for the tarragon-infused, soy-glazed goose is certainly good for the gander.
UPDATE: The LA Times has a nice piece on Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a watchdog group that has just unveiled its list of the 13 most corrupt politicians in Washington. Tellingly, 11 of the 13 are Republicans.