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Beyond DeLay: The 20 Most Corrupt Members of Congress

Posted in the database on Wednesday, September 20th, 2006 @ 15:02:30 MST (5438 views)
from Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washingt  

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(Download the report)

Over the course of the 109th Congress, the issue of congressional ethics has taken on new resonance. Where questionable conduct was once shrugged off as “business as usual,” now both the public and the press are demanding greater accountability from members of Congress. An August 2006 Harris poll shows that 77% of Americans have a negative view of Congress and while a May 2006 Gallup poll indicates that 83% of Americans consider corruption a serious issue, and 64% believe that dealing with corruption should be a high priority for Congress.

The 20 Most Corrupt Members of Congress

Sen. Conrad Burns (R-MT)

Sen. Bill Frist (R-TN)

Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA)

Rep. Roy Blunt (R-MO)

Rep. John Doolittle (R-CA)

Rep. Tom Feeney (R-FL)

Rep. Katherine Harris (R-FL)

Rep. William Jefferson (D-LA)

Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-CA)

Rep. Gary Miller (R-CA)

Rep. Alan Mollohan (D-WV)

Rep. Marilyn Musgrave (R-CO)

Rep. Richard Pombo (R-CA)

Rep. Rick Renzi (R-AZ)

Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX)

Rep. John Sweeney (R-NY)

Rep. Charles Taylor (R-NC)

Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA)

Rep. Curt Weldon (R-PA)

In the last two years, the careers of three members have ended as a result of corruption: former Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX) has been indicted in Texas and is facing possible federal indictment in the Jack Abramoff scandal; Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham is now serving an eight-year jail term for bribery though the federal probe into his activities remains open and may yet encompass other members of Congress; and Rep. Bob Ney has agreed to plead to guilty to crimes that will likely result in a minimum two-year prison term. In addition, several other members, including Reps. William Jefferson, Alan Mollohan and Jerry Lewis, and Sens. Conrad Burns and Bill Frist are also under federal investigation.

Dishonorable Mentions

Rep. Chris Cannon (R-UT)

Rep. Dennis Hastert (R-IL)

Rep. J.D. Hayworth (R-AZ)

Rep. John Murtha (D-PA)

Rep. Don Sherwood (R-PA)

When CREW released its report last year, we called it “Beyond DeLay,” because although Rep. DeLay’s ethical transgressions were the most publicized, we believed that there were other members whose behavior merited scrutiny. Last year’s report included 13 members, while this year’s report includes a startling 20 with five dishonorable mentions. We attribute the increase, in part, to a press corps more attuned to the issue of congressional ethics with the result that there have been a greater number of investigative pieces on members’ conduct.

In the following report, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) documents the unethical activities of 25 members of Congress: 17 House Members and three Senators and five members whose known conduct isn’t severe enough for them to make the list, but bears notice. The biggest problem: the members on this list have abused their positions for the financial benefit of themselves, their friends and their families. Some do this by hiring unqualified family members, some allow family members to lobby them and many use the legislative process to earmark for the financial benefit of themselves and specific individuals. Members need to be reminded that a career in public service is not intended to be lucrative. If members want to get rich, they should become lobbyists.

Although much of the information included in this report has been published in other places, there is no other comparable compilation of the information in one place.

Despite the appalling conduct of members of both houses, but particularly the House of Representatives – as well as the largest scandal in congressional history - the ethics committees ignominiously persist in turning a blind eye and a deaf ear to the conduct of their colleagues. If Congress is not going to police itself – and the evidence clearly demonstrates that it is not – the ethics committees should be disbanded and the charade ended. Thankfully, the Department of Justice does not share Congress’s willful myopia to corruption.


To create this report, CREW reviewed articles, Federal Election Commission reports and audits, sworn testimony, emails, and personal financial and travel disclosure forms. We then analyzed that information to determine whether the information discovered suggested that a Member of Congress’s conduct violated any federal laws, regulations or congressional ethics rules.

Footnote: References to companies making campaign contributions are shorthand for campaign contributions by those companies’ political action committees and employees and, in some cases, their immediate families. We are not


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