Recent Congressional scandals involving former Florida Rep. Mark Foley and others have called into question the ethical climate on Capitol Hill.
Missouri’s 9th Congressional District for the U.S. House of Representatives candidates — Republican incumbent Kenny Hulshof, Democrat Duane Burghard, the Progressive Party’s Bill Hastings and Libertarian Steven Hedrick — discussed the current criticism of the government.
Hedrick’s main concern is with the amount of dishonesty involved with legislation and scandals.
“They’ve given politicians the name of liars,” Hedrick said.
Hedrick and the Libertarian party call for a total reform of the government, saying that recent laws such as the Patriot Act are turning the U.S. into a “fascist society.”
As a member of Congress, Hulshof said he recognizes what’s going on in Washington, and he calls for more openness and transparency in Congress. Last spring he voted against reform legislation, saying the proposed reforms were too weak.
As a member of the House Standards of Official Conduct, or ethics committee, he helped investigate former Majority Leader Tom DeLay, a Texas Republican, who was indicted for conspiring to violate campaign finance laws.
After the investigation, Hulshof was removed from the committee in 2005 by House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill. Hulshof said he believed the decision was a direct result of his subcommittee’s findings.
“People expect their leaders to act with honor and integrity,” Hulshof said. “Unfortunately, we’ve seen some of my colleagues, from both sides of the aisle, fall short. I believe elected officials should be held to a higher standard.”
That’s why he said he’s been willing to go against “some very powerful people” — even those within his own party, like Rep. Mark Foley. Foley resigned in September after former congressional pages came forward with sexually explicit instant messages and e-mails they said were sent to them from the congressman.
“I’m pleased he resigned immediately,” Hulshof said. “Had he not, he would have been thrown out almost as fast. We need to go back and look at the page program and make sure we’re taking the necessary steps to protect the young people who are involved in that program.”
Hastings said he was concerned about “a lack of morality” in the federal government. When talking about the investigation into Foley’s behavior, Hastings said he had serious concerns as to whether it would be effective.
“When in doubt, form a committee,” he said. “They stall the process and make it look like someone’s working on the problem.”
Burghard said that incidents like the Foley scandal are “symptomatic of a much larger problem.”
“When Republicans took control of Congress, they said they would restore ethics and dignity to the government,” he said. “Instead, what have they delivered? People like (lobbyist Jack) Abramoff and Foley, warrantless wire taps, authorized torture and the end of habeas corpus.”
Abramoff pleaded guilty earlier this year to felony charges stemming from his lobbying on behalf of American Indian tribes.
With the Foley incident in particular, Burghard said the congressman’s conduct was ignored because he’s a “money-machine” for the Republican Party, having raised over $750,000.
“(Republicans) ignored a pedophile so he could continue to make money for them,” he said.
Burghard also said, in reference to the investigation on Foley, that Republicans aren’t very good at investigating themselves, noting that there had been 125 investigations into the Clinton administration and none on Bush.
“The American people don’t trust (Republicans) to police themselves,” he said.
In the end, he said, much of this is due to the unrestrained power of Republicans over Congress.
“It brings up the adage, ‘Absolute power corrupts absolutely,’ ” he said.