It takes two to commit bribery — the person who takes the bribe and the person who gives it.
U.S. Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham pleaded guilty earlier this week to charges related to receiving $2.4 million in bribes. Justice demands the next prosecution be of the defense contractors who kept the San Diego-area congressman supplied with an eye-popping flow of cash, luxury cars, yachts and other amenities.
They're just as guilty as he is. Prosecutors should keep pressing their investigation to nail anyone involved in corrupting Cunningham — and any other members of Congress who might be similarly entangled.
Congress and the Pentagon have some investigating to do, too — of themselves. Cunningham served on a subcommittee for defense appropriations. He admitted using his influence to get the Pentagon to award contracts to the contractors who bribed him. Something is deeply wrong with Pentagon procurement if a single member of Congress can steer contracts to certain contractors.
The Cunningham scandal comes in the midst of a hydra-headed investigation of influence peddling by lobbyist Jack Abramoff, the indictment of former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay for an alleged campaign money-laundering conspiracy and an investigation of Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist for possible insider trading.
There is a stench rising from Congress. It's not just the criminal probes but also the growing sense that this Congress has been bought and paid for — through campaign contributions, members' luxury travel on lobbyists' tabs and high-salary jobs upon departure in companies their lawmaking helped. Such activities may be perfectly legal, but they leave an impression of sleaze.
Republicans took control of Congress a decade ago with promises of bringing higher ethical standards to Washington. We're still waiting.
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