Can Washington Face Up to Corruption?
DANIEL SCHORR: This may be one of those periodic moments in the nation's capital when long-tolerated corruption suddenly explodes and soon indictments and subpoenas are flying all over the place.
LIANE HANSEN, Host:
NPR senior news analyst Daniel Schorr.
SCHORR: The last such time that I can remember was ABSCAM in 1980, a bribery scandal that featured a senator and five representatives caught in an FBI sting shown on videotape accepting cash bribes from a fictitious Arab businessman. In those days, my late friend Philip Stern wrote a book titled "The Best Congress Money Can Buy." We may have to dust off that title for what's going on now.
Politicians who took money from superlobbyist Jack Abramoff are hastily divesting themselves of it. The Bush re-election campaign committee, which got $6,000, has sent it to the American Heart Association. Abramoff himself and two of his associates are under felony indictment and cooperating with the prosecution. You can almost hear the shudders of apprehension on Capitol Hill.
Remarkable is who it is that is shaking things up this way. The prosecution is in the hands of Alice Fisher, associate attorney general and head of the criminal division. Ms. Fisher, it may surprise you to know, is 38 years old and has two children. It may surprise you more to learn that Ms. Fisher has been in her job for only five months and was appointed by President Bush.
She already has one feather in her cap. Although she is a protege of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, she took on the department on the subject of post-Katrina non-bid contracts to administration cronies and she got Chertoff to announce that henceforth contracts will be let on the basis of merit.
SCHORR: graft and corruption in Congress. At a news conference announcing the Abramoff plea bargain she said, `The corruption scheme with Mr. Abramoff is very extensive. We're going to follow wherever it leads.' She also said that a priority for her would be ensuring the integrity of government. Except for Senators McCain and Feingold, that's not the kind of language we've heard in recent times around these parts. She appears to have the backing of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, friend of the president, and something good may yet come out of this corruption-riddled town. This is Daniel Schorr.
HANSEN: It's 22 minutes before the hour.
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