You got the sense this week that the federal investigations into Republican corruption were going to muscle their way back into the news on a more regular basis.
Former GOP Congressman Bob Ney was sentenced today to 2 1/2 years in prison for his role in the Jack Abramoff scandal. (The best headline for that story was "Abramoff Republican Sentenced." Abramoff Republicans. I like that. You had Radical Republicans, Rockefeller Republicans, and now Abramoff Republicans. Sums up the era, doesn't it?)
In other Abramoff news, an indictment of former Bush Interior official Steven Griles appears imminent. Griles has resigned from the lobbying firm of Lundquist, Nethercutt & Griles LLC and from the Jamestown 400th Commemoration Commission. He has also beefed up his legal defense team.
Duke Cunningham briber Mitchell Wade, founder of the now defunct defense contractor MZM, is still singing like a canary. His sentencing will reportedly be delayed for another six months so that his cooperation with the feds can continue. That investigation will continue without the involvement of Carol Lam, we learned this week. The San Diego U.S. Attorney whose office was leading the Cunningham investigation and its various outgrowths was pushed out of office by the Bush Administration for reasons which are still unclear and therefore suspicious.
While the criminal justice side of the scandals ground slowly onward, the political house-cleaning swept along in ways large and small. In Washington, the Senate, after the usual jockeying and gamesmanship, passed an ethics reform bill that was tougher than many had expected and than Majority Leader Harry Reid may have wanted. In Texas, the state canceled controversial lobbying contracts with two Tom Delay-connected lobbying firms, vestiges of the headier days of GOP dominance.
For my money, though, the best antiseptic was a return to congressional oversight. The lights and cameras focused on high-profile hearings, like the appearance of the Attorney General before the Judiciary Committee, but the hardest and most important work is done out of the view of the cameras in the myriad of little ways that Congress, when doing its job properly, can hold the Executive to account.
This morning, for example, the Washington Post ran an important story on an effort, later abandoned, by GSA Administrator Lurita Doan to award a no-bid federal contract to a company owned by her former business partner and friend. Before the day was out, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee had opened an investigation, and Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA) had fired off letters to Doan and the two other principal players in the Post story requesting documents and information pertaining to the contract in question.
The days of wine and roses for our Republican friends are over.