Money scandals are nothing new to this city. The long sordid story of cash and politics may currently be focused on lobbyist Jack Abramoff, but it traces back through former Speaker Jim Wright's book deal and Abscam to the presidency of Ulysses S. Grant and further. And those are only the incidents we know about.
So as House majority leader Tom DeLay steps down officially from his leadership post - admitting no wrong but simply saying he is doing what's best for the Republican Party - it is tempting to look at the whole thing as "business as usual."
Jack Abramoff, was "just another" high- powered lobbyist/ restaurateur, who needs to learn that e-mails don't just disappear into the ether after you click "send." And his bad apple antics are "just the latest" to spoil the careers of a barrel or two of congressmen. Next?
But before you do your usual "they're all crooks" wave of your hand - don't. This case is different. It is particularly ugly, and it's just beginning.
Polls show Americans think Republican and Democratic politicians are largely equal when it comes to ethics - 71 percent said that in a recent Washington Post poll - and on the whole the American public is right. There are good and bad people from both parties. For every Bob Ney, a Republican from Ohio's 18th District, seemingly headed for jail time because of his ties to Abramoff, there is a James Traficant, a Democrat from Ohio's 17th, already there to show him around the exercise yard.
But right now the ethics avalanche is headed toward the GOP for a few reasons. One is simply par for the course, the other the party has brought on itself.
First, ethics violations tend to rain down on the party in power because they are the folks in the best position to grant favors. After all, if you are going to sit through and pay for a dinner full of bad jokes with a self-important glad-hander, make it the right self- important glad-hander. And since 2001, the Republicans have owned this town.
The second reason, however, is a bit more troublesome for the GOP.
In 1995, when the party took control of both houses of Congress, it initiated what it called the K Street Project. The party pressured lobbying firms and trade associations to hire Republicans and punished firms that didn't. …