Election 2016

All 4 GOP Governors Running For President Targets Of Corruption Probes

Texas’ Rick Perry is the latest to join this elite club.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock, Copyright (c) Christopher Halloran

Being the target of political corruption investigations seems to be the latest must-have credential for Republican governors running for president in 2016.

On Friday, Texas Gov. Rick Perry was indicted in two charges related to threats to cut off funding for a surly arm of state government that Texas Republicans especially love to hate—the anti-corruption unit in the Travis County prosecutor’s office. This is the same office that investigated former Texas U.S. Rep. Tom Delay and forced him from office.

Also on Friday, New Jersey residents learned that they had so far spent $6.52 million in taxpayer funds for the legal defense of Gov. Chris Christie, who is under investigation for the politically motivated closure of the George Washington Bridge in the first week of school last September, delaying hundreds of thousands of commuters and emergency responders. Taxpayers are being billed at the discounted rate of $650 an hour.

And then there’s Wisconsin’s Scott Walker, whose top aides when he was Milwaukee County’s chief executive have already been convicted of violating election laws that bar government employees from campaigning on the job. Walker now sits, like an eye at the center of a hurricane, in an investigation into campaign money laundering by GOP front groups during his recall election and last gubernatorial campaign.

The only remaining GOP governor running for president, Louisiana’s Bobby Jindal, isn’t currently under investigation for corruption. But his administration was last year by the FBI, prompting the resignation of Bruce Greenstein, the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals Secretary, for steering state contracts to his former employer.

Jindal's dubious behavior involves his wife, according to CREW—Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics In Washington—who said that she received “at least $790,000” in donations for a foundation she runs from 13 corporations that also contributed $100,000 to his gubernatorial campaigns.

The field of 2016 GOP presidential contenders is crowded with 10 top candidates. Christie is now in the lead, if you can call it that, with 11.5 percent of the likely vote, according to RealClearPolitics

Looking past the presidential field, there’s another sitting GOP governor who is in political hot water—or are feeling the heat because trusted associates are under investigation. Kansas’ Sam Brownback is facing a tough re-election fight, after imposing Tea Party-style tax cuts and creating a more than $300 million budget deficit. The FBI is investigating his former top aides who went into the lobbying business and allegedly peddled their ability to influence state government decisions.

Some pundits have said that some of these investigations are more serious than others, with the charges against Perry being the most flimsy. On Tuesday, the New York Times editorial page asked if Perry's "bad judgement" was really criminal?

Of course, many Republican governors are doing things civil rights groups believe are illegal, prompting lawsuits, such as Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer's decision not to issue driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants, and North Carolina’s Pat McCrory presiding over the largest roll-back of voting rights in any state in years.

And there’s the ongoing trial of former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and his wife over accepting tens of thousands of dollars in gifts, which the Washington Post has covered in excruciating detail verging on too much marital information. (For example, the defense claim that the couple could not have conspired because they were barely speaking to each other.)

But getting back to the GOP field of 2016 presidential contenders; for now, all the current governors running are in legal hot water of their own making. One can only guess what ethical lapses or corruption investigations might surface in coming months for the rest of the presidential aspirants: former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum. 

 

 

 

  

Steven Rosenfeld covers national political issues for AlterNet, including America's retirement crisis, democracy and voting rights, and campaigns and elections. He is the author of "Count My Vote: A Citizen's Guide to Voting" (AlterNet Books, 2008).