Monday, July 24, 2006

Hoping to Leverage the 'Corruption Issue'

Congress: Hoping to Leverage the 'Corruption Issue'

July 31, 2006 issue - The defeat of former Christian Coalition director Ralph Reed in a Georgia primary last week has raised Democratic hopes there may be further fallout from the Jack Abramoff corruption scandal. Reed, once a rising GOP star, lost his race for lieutenant governor after being hammered in campaign ads over his ties to the "convicted felon" Abramoff. Dem strategists are now betting that an anti-Abramoff backlash may prove a factor in three to six races—a potentially significant number, since a 15-seat gain would give them control in the House.

The most vulnerable GOP incumbent is Ohio Rep. Bob Ney, whose former chief of staff recently pleaded guilty in the Abramoff case. (Ney denies wrongdoing.) But others who are now viewed in potential trouble, strategists say, include Reps. J. D. Hayworth of Arizona (who initially neglected to report fund-raisers he held at one of Abramoff's sports skyboxes) and Charles Taylor of North Carolina (who pushed a project for one of Abramoff's Indian tribes shortly after the lobbyist's firm held a fund-raiser for him.)

But GOP operatives say the "corruption issue" could boomerang on the Democrats. Two Democratic incumbents are currently having to answer for their own ethical troubles: Rep. William Jefferson of Louisiana was caught on tape taking an alleged $100,000 bribe, and Alan Mollohan of West Virginia is the subject of a Justice inquiry into unreported loans and other financial irregularities. All the at-risk congressmen deny any wrongdoing.

—Michael Isikoff