10 of the Most Crooked Candidates of 2010
Since 2005, the Watchdog group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) has highlighted the most egregious violators of the public trust in its annual Most Corrupt Members of Congress report. Now, CREW has begun a list of Crooked Candidates to shine the spotlight on some of the lousy politicians vying for federal office in 2010. Here's their collection of non-incumbent candidates so far:
CREW's Crooked Candidates 2010
Roy Blunt -- Running for U.S. Senate, Missouri
Running for U.S. Senate, Missouri
Roy Blunt is a candidate in the Republican primary for the United States Senate in Missouri. For the last 14 years, Rep. Blunt has served in the U.S. House of Representatives in the state’s 7th congressional district. As a member of Congress, Rep. Blunt came under fire for a variety of issues including employing the same corrupt tactics that forced his mentor, former Texas Rep. Tom DeLay, to resign. Rep. Blunt’s ethical issues were documented in CREW’s 2006 report on the most corrupt members of Congress.
In 2003, Rep. Blunt divorced his wife of 31 years to marry Philip Morris (now Altria) lobbyist Abigail Perlman. Before it was known publicly that Rep. Blunt and Ms. Perlman were dating – and only hours after Rep. Blunt assumed the role of Majority Whip – he tried to secretly insert a provision into Homeland Security legislation that would have benefitted Philip Morris, at the expense of competitors. Notably, Philip Morris/Altria and its subsidiaries contributed at least $217,000 to campaign committees connected to Rep. Blunt from 1996 to 2006.
Also in 2003, Rep. Blunt helped his son, Andrew Blunt, by inserting a provision into the $79 billion emergency appropriation for the war in Iraq to benefit U.S. shippers like United Parcel Service, Inc. and FedEx Corp. Andrew Blunt lobbied on behalf of UPS in Missouri, and UPS and FedEx contributed at least $58,000 to Rep. Blunt from 2001 to 2006.
Family connections have also helped another of Rep. Blunt’s sons, former Missouri Governor Matt Blunt. Gov. Blunt received campaign contributions from nearly three dozen influential Missouri lobbyists and lawyers when he ran for governor of Missouri in 2004, half of whom had provided financial support to his father. Earlier in 2000, when Matt Blunt was running for Secretary of State, Rep. Blunt was involved in an apparent scheme, along with Rep. DeLay, to funnel money through a local party committee into Matt Blunt’s campaign committee.
Rep. Blunt and his staff had close connections to convicted former lobbyist Jack Abramoff. In June 2003, Mr. Abramoff persuaded then-Majority Leader DeLay to organize a letter, co-signed by then-Speaker Dennis Hastert, then-Whip Blunt, and then-Deputy Whip Eric Cantor, which endorsed a view of gambling law benefitting Mr. Abramoff’s client, the Louisiana Coushatta, by blocking gambling competition by another tribe. Mr. Abramoff had donated $8,500 to Rep. Blunt’s leadership PAC, Rely on Your Beliefs.
Charlie Crist -- Running for U.S. Senate, Florida
Governor Charlie Crist is an Independent candidate running for United States Senate from Florida. Charlie Crist is currently the governor of Florida, but has held several public offices over the last 18 years.
Gov. Crist handpicked Jim Greer to head the Florida Republican Party. Despite multiple calls for Mr. Greer’s resignation by fellow Republicans, due to extravagant spending at the party’s expense, Gov. Crist defended Mr. Greer. Mr. Greer is now facing six counts of grand theft, fraud and money laundering. He is accused of secretly setting up a shell company, Victory Strategies, and signing a deal that would give Victory Strategies 10% of GOP donations – a deal that Gov. Crist allegedly approved.
Prior to serving as governor, Gov. Crist was the state’s attorney general. As attorney general, Gov. Crist was criticized for failing to investigate those with whom he had political or financial ties. First, he failed to investigate state contractor GDX for leaking the personal information of 100,000 state employees. GDX had been subcontracted by computer company Convergys to index electronic personnel records but when GDX outsourced the job overseas, the personal information of up to 100,000 state employees may have been exposed. Convergys had close ties to then-Attorney General Crist. The company had hired his advisor as a lobbyist and was a donor to the Republican Party. Attorney General Crist dropped the investigation.
As attorney general, Gov. Crist also failed to fully investigate boy-band mogul Lou Pearlman. Mr. Pearlman, who ran a $300 million investment scam, was eventually indicted by federal authorities and pled guilty of fraud, conspiracy and money laundering charges. He was sentenced to 25 years in prison. A lawsuit brought by investors claimed Gov. Crist and Florida regulators knew about the scheme but turned a blind eye for four years. The suit alleges Mr. Pearlman got a pass from the then-attorney general because he had donated at least $12,000 to Gov. Crist’s campaign.
Jeff Denham -- Running for U.S. House, California
Sen. Denham has been accused of supporting the interests of Chukchansi Indian’s casino in exchange for the tribe’s political support. Sen. Dunham used his influence to oppose construction of a $250 million casino proposed by the North Folk Rancheria of Mono Indians, which would likely compete with the existing Chukchansi casino.
The Chukchansi Indian tribe has been tied to campaign ads and a charity event supporting Sen. Denham. First, the interest group, Californians for Fiscally Conservative Leadership, set up by the Chukchansi Indian tribe, aired radio ads attacking Sen. Denham’s opponent just before the congressional primary election.
Additionally, Sen. Denham donated $25,000 and loaned $150,000 from his state senate campaign account to the nonprofit Remembering the Brave. The nonprofit was working in coordination with the Chukchansi Indian Tribe to host a charity concert. Remembering the Brave sponsored radio and television advertisements, prominently featuring Sen. Denham, to promote the concert. Experts agreed that the exposure the ads afforded Sen. Denham likely benefited his run for Congress. By donating and loaning the money from his state campaign account Sen. Denham may have violated rules forbidding the use of state campaign money on a federal race.
Furthermore, the Chukchansi Indian Tribe stated in a marketing memo that the charity concert would “raise funds for Jeff Denham and Joe Alberta campaigns.” The tribe later called the memo a misprint.
Lastly, Sen. Denham may have violated federal election law in late March when he traveled on a plane owned by Harris Farms, a California agribusiness. Since 2007 it has been illegal for congressional candidates to fly on corporate planes. Sen. Denham boarded the plane with Karl Rove and Andy Vidak, a Republican candidate from the neighboring 20th district, and flew from Fresno to East Bay and then to Harris Ranch. Local charter operators estimated the cost of the flight to have been at least $750, but Sen. Denham, in his campaign finance disclosures, reported only $150 to Harris Farms for travel expenses.
Alvin Greene -- Running for U.S. Senate, South Carolina
Alvin Greene is the Democratic nominee for United States Senate from South Carolina.
There are major questions about the legitimacy of Mr. Greene’s campaign. When Mr. Greene won the primary he had engaged in no fundraising, had no website and had no organized campaign. Mr. Greene was discharged from the Army in August 2009, is currently unemployed and lives with his father. In addition, when Mr. Greene was charged with obscenity in November 2009 for showing pornography to a University of South Carolina student, he was assigned a public defender, a service normally provided only to indigent defendants.
Given Mr. Greene’s apparent lack of funds, CREW and others raised questions about whether someone had paid the $10,440 fee to file as a candidate with his own money. The South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) investigated Mr. Greene’s finances and found he had used his own savings from the Army to pay the registration fees. SLED also found Mr. Greene had no intent to deceive the court when he applied for a public defender to defend him against the obscenity charges though he is now being represented by a private lawyer.
Several politicians have criticized Mr. Green including House Majority Whip James Clyburn who claimed Mr. Greene is “someone’s plant” from an outside party and called for an investigation by the U.S. Attorney’s office.
CREW also filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) alleging Mr. Greene violated the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA) and FEC regulations by failing to file mandatory disclosure reports prior to the election. CREW’s complaint to the FEC alleges Mr. Greene failed to file a Statement of Candidacy and that his campaign committee, Alvin M. Greene for Senate, failed to file a Statement of Organization as well as the April 15th and 12-Day Pre-Primary reports. These reports would have disclosed the campaign's contributions and expenditures leading up to the June 8, 2010 primary. CREW asked the FEC to refer any knowing and willful violations to the Department of Justice for criminal prosecution.
Offering an unusual job creation proposal, Mr. Greene suggested someone "make toys of me, especially for the holidays. Little dolls. Me. Like maybe little action dolls. Me in an army uniform, air force uniform, and me in my suit. They can make toys of me and my vehicle, especially for the holidays and Christmas for the kids. So you see I think out of the box like that. It's not something a typical person would bring up. That's something that could happen, that makes sense. It's not a joke." Later, Mr. Greene elaborated, "I am a true American hero and if any of the toy companies want to put something like that forward that would be good." He said he has not received any inquiries, but that it would be "Just a good positive thing for the kids."
Timothy Griffin -- Running for U.S. House, Arkansas
Timothy Griffin is the Republican nominee for Arkansas’s second congressional district.
Mr. Griffin was a former aide to and protégé of notorious political operative Karl Rove. In the 2004 presidential election, Mr. Griffin was the research director of the RNC where he may have spearheaded Republican vote caging efforts, a legally questionable direct mail campaign to disenfranchise poor, minority and military voters.
Mr. Griffin was most prominently touched by scandal when he was picked to replace a U.S. Attorney in Arkansas who, despite being highly regarded, had been asked to resign. Emails between the Justice Department and the White House revealed that despite his lack of prosecutorial experience, the selection of Mr. Griffin was personally important to Mr. Rove. Knowing that he would never pass muster at a Senate confirmation hearing, Mr. Griffin was appointed interim U.S. Attorney for an indefinite time period under a misused, emergency provision of the PATRIOT Act.
Mr. Griffin resigned effective June 1, 2007, after less than six months on the job and in the midst of an investigation by the House Judiciary Committee into the political motivations behind the U.S. Attorney scandal.
J.D. Hayworth -- Running for U.S. Senate, Arizona
J.D. Hayworth is a candidate in the Republican primary for the United States Senate in Arizona.
Mr. Hayworth served in the U.S. House of Representatives for twelve years before losing his 2006 bid for reelection in part due to his ethics issues. While in Congress, Rep. Hayworth drew intense criticism for his extensive ties to Jack Abramoff and for employing his wife to run his political action committee (PAC). Rep. Hayworth’s ethical issues were documented in CREW’s 2006 report on the most corrupt members of Congress. After losing his seat, Rep. Hayworth hosted a conservative talk-radio show, but he left that job earlier this year to run for Senate.
While in Congress, Rep. Hayworth accepted donations to his campaign and leadership PAC from convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff’s clients. Rep. Hayworth also used Mr. Abramoff’s skyboxes five times without reporting the costs in his Federal Election Commission (FEC) filings. Rep. Hayworth’s failure to report the skyboxes as campaign contributions violated federal election law, and Rep. Hayworth was later forced to repay the skybox owners. Rep. Hayworth was later cleared of any additional wrongdoing in the Abramoff scandal.
Rep. Hayworth’s ties to Abramoff also enriched his family. Between 1999 and 2007, Rep. Hayworth’s wife, Mary, worked as the sole paid employee of TEAM PAC, his leadership PAC. During that time, Ms. Hayworth was paid over $140,000. Additionally, $83,000 of the PAC donations came from Abramoff-related interests. Given that the PAC’s bookkeeping was farmed out to an accounting firm, Ms. Hayworth’s role in the PAC was unclear. Rep. Hayworth terminated the PAC in 2008.
Ed Martin -- Running for U.S. House, Missouri
Ed Martin is a candidate in the Republican primary for Missouri’s third congressional district.
On August 20, 2007, Mr. Martin sent emails from his government account to Republican Party activists urging them to rally against Attorney General Jay Nixon, a Democrat and rival of Governor Blunt. A reporter caught wind of Mr. Martin’s actions and requested access to the emails under Missouri open government laws. The governor’s office falsely claimed the emails had been deleted. When Scott Eckersly, the lawyer responsible for processing the reporter’s request, notified Mr. Martin that deleting emails was a violation of state law and the governor’s office’s own policy, Mr. Martin fired him.
Due to the controversy surrounding Mr. Eckersly’s termination, Mr. Martin was pressured to resign, though Governor Blunt denied forcing him out. Mr. Eckersly subsequently brought a wrongful termination and defamation suit against Mr. Martin and other officials in the governor’s office. The State of Missouri ultimately agreed to a $500,000 settlement with Mr. Eckersly and spent an additional $1.3 million on legal fees – all because of Mr. Martin’s inappropriate conduct. An investigation by state officials later found that the governor’s office failed to properly disclose Mr. Martin’s emails.
In 2005, a hydroelectric dam collapsed causing a deluge of water to damage a Missouri state park. The subsequent investigation by the Missouri State Patrol found no evidence of criminal conduct. Citing the State Patrol’s report, Attorney General Nixon declined to press criminal charges against the operator of the dam. Mr. Martin, who had attacked Attorney General Nixon throughout the investigation, strongly urged the State Patrol to criticize Mr. Nixon for failing to prosecute. Under intense pressure from the governor’s office, the superintendent of the State Patrol released a statement urging the attorney general to follow-up on the report. Once it became clear that Mr. Martin had prompted the superintendent’s statement, Mr. Martin was roundly criticized for trying to play politics with the State Patrol.
Finally, Mr. Martin has demonstrated insensitivity to race issues. In an appearance before the Missouri Housing Development Commission, in response to a lawyer’s argument about the availability of a federal database to screen illegal immigrants, Mr. Martin responded, “I'll tell you what's available, is every frigging developer can figure out who is illegal, and when he says - like he told them - there's a bunch of Mexicans out there, I guess some of them are probably not legal.” While Mr. Martin claimed he was simply paraphrasing a statement made earlier in the meeting, his tactless comments prompted Jim Torres, a secretary and legislative liaison for the Commission, to resign. In a letter to Governor Blunt, Mr. Torres said that he found Mr. Martin’s comments offensive and asked the Governor to apologize. In the wake of the Mr. Martin’s comments, Hispanic groups across Missouri called on Mr. Martin to resign.
Kendrick Meek -- Running for U.S. Senate, Florida
Representative Kendrick Meek is a candidate in the Democratic primary for United States Senate from Florida. Rep. Meek has spent the last 15 years holding public office, including the last 8 years representing the 17th district of Florida in the U.S House of Representatives.
Rep. Meek has been criticized for his relationship with developer Dennis Stackhouse, who is now awaiting trial for grand theft and organizing a scheme to defraud. Rep. Meek earmarked $1,072,750 million for Mr. Stackhouse’s development project and requested an additional $4 million in earmarks for Mr. Stackhouse, which were never awarded. In addition, both Rep. Meek and his former district director, Anthony Williams, served on the Miami-Dade Urban Revitalization Task Force, which loaned $2.2 million to Mr. Stackhouse’s project, but Rep. Meek did not vote on that particular loan.
At the same time Mr. Stackhouse employed Rep. Meek’s mother, former Congresswoman Carrie Meek, as a consultant paying her $90,000, giving her the free use of a leased Cadillac Escalade and donating the use of a 2,600 square foot office for her foundation. Mr. Stackhouse further curried favor with the congressman by contributing thousands to Rep. Meek’s campaign in 2003. Furthermore, Mr. Stackhouse gave Mr. Williams $13,000 to help him buy a house. Police tried to make a case against Mr. Williams for mortgage fraud, but prosecutors believed the evidence gathered was insufficient. Rep. Meek claimed not to have known about the mortgage deal.
During Rep. Meek’s tenure in the state Senate, he was employed by Wackenhut Corrections Corporation as a business development officer. Rep. Meek’s relationship with the company led to numerous conflicts of interest. For example, Rep. Meek failed to recuse himself from voting on bills that directly impacted Wackenhut’s bottom line. He was also a member of the Senate appropriations Subcommittee on Public Safety and Judiciary, partly in charge of doling out state funds, while corrections-giant Wackenhut had multi-million dollar business dealings with the state.
The circumstances surrounding Rep. Meek’s initial election to Congress are questionable. Rep. Carrie Meek, his mother and representative for the 17th district, decided two weeks before the qualifying deadline for the primary election that she wasn’t going to run again, putting potential opponents at a disadvantage. She also announced her son would be running in her stead, essentially bequeathing him the seat.
Dino Rossi -- Running for U.S. Senate, Washington
In the 1990s, Sen. Rossi developed a relationship with one of Seattle’s biggest real estate developers, Michael Mastro. In 1997, when Sen. Rossi was serving in the state Senate, he purchased a building from Mr. Mastro. Two of Sen. Rossi’s fellow investors were Washington state lobbyists, David Ducharme and his father, Richard Ducharme. Mr. Mastro loaned the threesome $2 million to purchase the $2.5 million property. Separately, Sen. Rossi borrowed $50,000 from Mr. Mastro for the purchase, which he did not report as required on his financial disclosure forms. Mr. Mastro was also a donor to both of Sen. Rossi’s campaigns for governor. In 2008, Mr. Mastro’s multimillion dollar empire crumbled after it became apparent he had been promising untenable returns to investors.
Sen. Rossi’s relationship with the Ducharmes continued long after they sold the building they had purchased from Mr. Mastro. While still a state senator, Sen. Rossi turned to the pair once again and convinced them to invest in a bank that he had started. Sen. Rossi invested at least $75,000 of his own money in the bank and made David Ducharme CEO. In 2009, the bank came under investigation for “engage[ing] in unsafe and unsound banking practices relating to its strategic and capital planning, credit underwriting, credit administration, concentration risk management, and liquidity management.” David Ducharme is currently working to secure enough capital to appease federal regulators.
Following his defeat in the 2004 gubernatorial race, Sen. Rossi started the Forward Washington Foundation. Sen. Rossi used the foundation to pay himself $75,000 a year while traveling the state giving speeches but little else. Sen. Rossi treated the foundation much like his own campaign committee, but he didn’t have to abide by campaign contribution limits or disclosure laws. The Public Disclosure Commission (PDC) opened an investigation into the foundation but Sen. Rossi stepped down as president before the investigation was complete and declared his candidacy for governor. The Commission later ended its investigation because of insufficient evidence.
In his run for governor in 2008, Sen. Rossi was supported by the Building Industry Association of Washington (BIAW). The BIAW spent $6.9 million largely to promote Sen. Rossi and criticize his opponent throughout the race. A complaint filed with PDC alleged that Sen. Rossi violated state law by coordinating fundraising with the BIAW, failing to register as a candidate in a timely manner, exceeding contribution limits and failing to disclose contributions. After an investigation, the PDC eventually cleared Sen. Rossi of any wrongdoing, but its final report revealed how closely the BIAW skirted the law in promoting his candidacy. Sen. Rossi’s close relationship to the BIAW shouldn’t have come as any surprise, though; Richard Ducharme is a former lobbyist for the BIAW.
Marco Rubio -- Running for U.S. Senate, Florida
Marco Rubio is a candidate in the Republican primary for United States Senate from Florida. Mr. Rubio served 8 years in the Florida House of Representatives, including two years as the Speaker of the House.
Mr. Rubio is currently implicated in a federal criminal investigation for the misuse of Florida Republican Party credit cards during his time as Speaker. Specifically, the IRS is examining records to determining if Mr. Rubio and other party leaders personally benefitted from the credit card scheme. Legally, party credit cards can only be used for political activities, but Mr. Rubio and his staff charged many seemingly personal expenses on the cards including car repairs, and grocery purchases. Mr. Rubio’s chief of staff racked up thousands of dollars in expenses on behalf of Mr. Rubio on his card including dinners and a Rubio family trip to a Georgia resort.
Mr. Rubio also admitted he double-billed both the Republican Party and state taxpayers for eight flights totaling about $3,000 in 2007. Mr. Rubio promised to refund the party, because the trips were for official business, but had not as of April 20, 2010.
Additionally, Mr. Rubio inserted earmarks into the state budget for his personal financial gain. While preparing to leave his position in the Florida House of Representatives, he accepted a $69,000 per year, part-time, unadvertised professor position with Florida International University (FIU). When he was hired, FIU had a $32 million budget deficit and had cut 23 degree programs and 200 jobs. During his tenure in the House, Mr. Rubio helped steer at least $29 million to the university, leading FIU’s president at the time to say that Mr. Rubio was “worth every penny”.
Similarly, Mr. Rubio was hired as a consultant for Jackson Memorial Hospital after he earmarked $20 million for the facility. Jackson Memorial paid Mr. Rubio’s firm $8,000 per month. The same firm, which also employed Mr. Rubio’s former aide, the wife of fellow Florida House Rep. Esteban Bovo, scored a $102,000 contract with Miami Children’s Hospital. At the time of the contract, Rep. Bovo was the Miami Children’s Hospital in-house lobbyist.
Furthermore, Mr. Rubio seems to have misused two political committees for personal gain. Mr. Rubio’s committee likely violated state law by failing to disclose $34,000 worth of expenses in 2003 and 2004 including a $7,000 payment to Mr. Rubio. While other Floridian candidates tend to itemize travel expenses, Mr. Rubio billed more than $51,000 in unidentified travel expenses to his committee. The same committee paid $5,700 to his wife, who is listed as its treasurer. Another Rubio political committee listed $14,000 in payments to family members, at least one of whom had a non-existent address.
Mr. Rubio has been criticized for giving preferential treatment to the Dosal Tobacco Company. Dosal had been a significant donor to Mr. Rubio’s campaigns and was a prominent player in Mr. Rubio’s Cuban-American constituency. Due to loopholes in Florida tobacco regulations resulting from a 1997 settlement reached by the state with big tobacco companies, Dosal had been able to avoid a significant per pack surcharge levied on most other tobacco companies. Since at least 2004, the Florida House debated closing the loopholes, but in 2007 and 2008, when Mr. Rubio was the very powerful Speaker of the House, no loophole fix bill was even introduced.
Moreover, Mr. Rubio secretly inserted language into the so called “proviso language,” passed along with the state budget, to increase the chances that Max Alvarez, a close friend and a political contributor to Mr. Rubio, would win a contract with the Florida Department of Transportation. Mr. Alvarez, who considers Mr. Rubio “like a son,” owns a small fuel business, which would not have been allowed to compete for a Florida Turnpike contract under the original language of the budget. Mr. Alvarez approached Mr. Rubio to insert the favorable language allowing his business to bid on the contract. Governor Charlie Crist eventually vetoed the bill underlying the proviso language.
Allen West -- Running for U.S. House, Florida
Lieutenant Colonel Allen West is a candidate in the Republican primary for Florida’s 22nd congressional district. Col. West previously served as a battalion commander in the Army’s Fourth Infantry Division in Iraq.
Col. West was stripped of his command and forced to resign for assaulting an Iraqi citizen during a harsh interrogation. In response to an intelligence report alleging a threat against Col. West and the men who traveled with him, he ordered the apprehension of Iraqi policeman Yehiya Kadoori Hamoodi. Although it was not Col. West’s job to conduct interrogations, he nevertheless interrogated Mr. Hamoodi.
Col. West allowed his soldiers to beat Mr. Hamoodi on the head and body. After the beatings, Col. West threatened to kill Mr. Hamoodi and shoved his head into a sand-filled barrel into which he fired at least one gunshot. Col. West later admitted that he couldn’t remember how many shots had actually been fired. After the gun was fired, Mr. Hamoodi “admitted there would be attacks” and gave names of alleged conspirators but subsequent investigations found no evidence of a plot to kill Col. West.
At a military tribunal on the incident, Col. West admitted he was not sure any corroboration of a plot was ever found and he may have been wrong about Mr. Hamoodi. Although the tribunal found Col. West guilty guilty of three counts of aggravated assault and thought that his actions merited a court martial, his admission of guilt and his long record in the Army allowed him to return home to retire with a mere $5,000 fine.
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