It's clear what the GOP talking points are regarding their ever-expaning collective rap sheet. "Corruption is just a natural outgrowth of money in politics, and besides, did you know that Democrats are implicated as well?"
After years in which big-dollar dealings have come to dominate the interaction between lobbyists and lawmakers, both sides are now facing what could be a wave of prosecutions in the courts and an uprising at the ballot box. Extreme examples of the new business-as-usual are no longer tolerated.
Republicans, who control the White House and Congress, are most vulnerable to this wave. But pollsters say that voters think less of both political parties the more prominent the issue of corruption in Washington becomes, and that incumbents generally could feel the heat of citizen outrage if the two latest guilty pleas multiply in coming months. [emphasis mine]
Um, well, no. I mean, I'll grant you that William Jefferson is probably a crook and I'm happy to see him pay for whatever crimes he has committed. But the current batch of political corruption cases is no innocent side-effect of political lobbying and the consequent corruption is by no means shared equally. No. This batch of political corruption is the logical outcome of the GOP K Street Project.
As Nicholas Confessore shows in his enduringly important article, the GOP has deliberately changed the face of the influence market. They have made it the purview of one party--and they have tied it closely to party discipline.
In the past, those people were about as likely to be Democrats as Republicans, a practice that ensured K Street firms would have clout no matter which party was in power. But beginning with the Republican takeover of Congress in 1994, and accelerating in 2001, when George W. Bush became president, the GOP has made a determined effort to undermine the bipartisan complexion of K Street.
But over the last few years, Republicans have brought about a revolutionary change: They've begun to capture and, consequently, discipline K Street. Through efforts like Santorum's--and a House version run by the majority whip, Roy Blunt (R-Mo.)--K Street is becoming solidly Republican. The corporate lobbyists who once ran the show, loyal only to the parochial interests of their employer, are being replaced by party activists who are loyal first and foremost to the GOP. Through them, Republican leaders can now marshal armies of lobbyists, lawyers, and public relations experts--not to mention enormous amounts of money--to meet the party's goals.
If you haven't read the article, go do so--the whole thing. Every Democrat needs to be familiar with the K Street Project and prepared to discuss it in detail. They need to be able to explain how the GOP has very deliberately taken over the influence market in this country. They have done so for a number of reasons--to insulate themselves from the voters, to gain a ready supply of policy "experts," to undercut Democrats and bipartisanship, to raise cash, lots of cash. But they did it, first and foremost, to make sure they could pull of the kind of scams that Randy Cunningham just went down for, that Tom DeLay and Bob Ney and Jack Abramoff and Grover Norquist and numerous others will go down for. Once you become the only game in town, the prices for influence go through the roof.
If you own the influence market in this country, you own it. Along with all the criminal indictments that come along in the package.
And while we're at it, can we stop calling pervasive GOP corruption a "scandal"? A scandal is a blow job in the oval office. This kind of massive, intentional influence-peddling is crime, pure and simple.