Thursday, July 22, 2010

10 of the Most Crooked Candidates of 2010

This election's crop of the dirtiest, least ethical candidates vying for office in Washington.

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

Jeff Denham is the Republican candidate for California's 19th congressional district. He has served as a California State Senator since 2003.

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."

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