Today’s Must Read

Jack Abramoff is in prison. Ex-Rep. Duke Cunningham (R-CA) is in prison. Ex-Rep. Bob Ney (R-OH) is in prison. Ex-Reps. Mark Foley (R-FL), Katherine Harris (R-FL), Tom DeLay (R-TX), Curt Weldon (R-PA), and Ex-Sen. Conrad Burns (R-MT), all either lost or did not seek reelection. Gone, away, to be forgotten. This year was supposed to be different for the Republicans. But…

As The New York Times notes this morning, scandal has pursued them into 2007. “The real question for Republicans in Washington is how low can you go, because we are approaching a level of ridiculousness,” says one Republican strategist.

So what’s the tally this year so far? Well, there is, of course, 1) Sen. Larry Craig (R-ID) and 2) Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) with their sex scandals (the attempted restroom tryst and numerous successful hotel room trysts, respectively).

But then there’s the much greater toll of just plain ol’ corruption. 3) Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK) and 4) Rep. Don Young (R-AK) are under investigation for their ties to the oil company Veco (though that’s just the tip of the iceberg for Young). 5) Reps. Tom Feeney (R-FL) and 6) John Doolittle (R-CA) have found themselves the focus of a reinvigorated Abramoff investigation (though Abramoff is in prison, he’s still busily cooperating). 7) Rep. Rick Renzi (R-AZ) had his house raided. 8) The FBI is investigating Rep. Gary Miller’s (R-CA) land deals.

And then there’s 9) Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) whose land deal with a businessman and campaign contributor became such a scandal that she finally just sold back the plot of land.

(Update: Thanks to a TPM Reader for pointing out that I omitted 12) Sen. Pete Domenici (R-NM) and 13) Rep. Heather Wilson (R-NM) in my original round-up. Both are facing ethics committee investigations for their calls last October to former U.S. attorney David Iglesias about his office’s investigation of a state Democrat.)

A kind of bonus field of scandal has been campaign officials for the various Republican candidates and their various scandals.

And there are a couple holdovers from 2006, of course; scandal figures who’ve stuck around and managed to keep a relatively low profile. 10) Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-CA) is still apparently under federal investigation. And 11) Rep. Ken Calvert’s (R-CA) land deals are still winning scrutiny.

Republican scandal is one of Karl Rove’s chief preoccupations. He’s said that it was a mistake not to have addressed the scandals earlier, before the 2006 midterms. The effect of scandal even had a place in the political briefings that his aides gave to various departments and agencies over the past several years. Here, for instance, is a page from a briefing his aide Scott Jennings gave this January:

But it would appear that the GOP will be facing a similar dilemma all over again come next November. The question is: will things turn out any differently?

Note: As always, we keep a running tally of investigations and prosecutions of both Democrats and Republicans on our Grand Ole Docket.

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