Corruption Scandals Are Piling Up for Democrats
Incidences of dirty politics on every level overwhelm
Former DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Andrew Burton/Getty Images
Former DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz was pulled into yet another scandal when on July 25 former IT aide Imran Awan was detained while attempting to flee the country and charged with bank fraud for wiring nearly $300,000 to Pakistan ahead of his planned escape. Imran Awan, who was employed by Wasserman Schultz until his arrest, is under criminal investigation for “wide-range equipment and data theft.” He reportedly tried to destroy hard drives confiscated by the FBI. Though the investigation began in February, Wasserman Schultz only recently granted U.S. Capitol Police access to a laptop Awan hid in a crevice of a congressional office building. The case is one of many scandals that have engulfed the Democratic Party.
In Pennsylvania, Democratic Mayor of Allentown Ed Pawlowski and former Democratic Mayor of Reading Vaughn Spencer, along with three others, were indicted by the FBI on July 26 for a pay-to-play scheme. Earlier this year in Pennsylvania, Philadelphia’s District Attorney Seth Williams, a Democrat, decided not to run for re-election because he currently faces an FBI probe into $160,000 of gifts he failed to report.
Democratic Congressman Robert Brady, who represents Pennsylvania’s first congressional district, is under FBI investigation for paying a primary challenger to drop out of the race in 2012. Brady, one of the longest serving Democrats in Congress, is the latest Democratic congressman to come under FBI scrutiny. Last year, Democratic Congressman Chaka Fattah was convicted and sentenced to prison for corruption charges. Fattah had been in office since 1995.
Seattle Democratic Mayor Ed Murray isn’t running for re-election this year due to a sex abuse scandal he is implicated in.
The Democratic National Committee (DNC) is plagued by corruption and inefficiency. It currently faces an ongoing class action lawsuit filed by Sen. Bernie Sanders‘ supporters for rigging the primaries in favor of Hillary Clinton. Another class action lawsuit was filed earlier this year on behalf of Clinton campaign field organizers who weren’t paid overtime, despite the Democratic National Convention Committee handing out $1 million in bonuses.
In May 2017, former Democratic Congresswoman Corinne Brown was convicted on several charges related to a fraudulent charity. She had served in Congress since 1993. The Florida Democratic Party chair race in January 2017 was rife with scandal: Billionaire donor Stephen Bittel broke the party’s rules to win the controversial race.
In March 2017, Sen. Bob Menendez exhausted all his appeals to avoid facing trial for bribery charges. The trial is set to begin in September.
Chicago Democratic Mayor Rahm Emanuel is hoping that early fundraising will save his bid for re-election in 2019. He will likely face staunch opposition due to his office being plagued by scandal, most notably a cover-up of police shooting unarmed black teenager Laquan McDonald in 2015. His largest labor union backer, John Coli Sr., was recently indicted on extortion charges.
In New York, Former Democratic Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver managed to get his corruption conviction overturned this month, but the U.S. District Attorney Office for the Southern District of New York is retrying the case. Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo, whose former aides were charged with corruption last year, is in damage control over an MTA State of Emergency in New York City. The New York Daily News reported earlier this month that Cuomo diverted funds meant for MTA repairs to boost his “pet projects.” In May 2017, former New York Democratic Congressman Anthony Weiner plead guilty in an underage sexting case.
In California, the California Democratic Party Compliance Review Commission found that over 300 votes cast in the election for California Democratic Party chair posed problems in their potential legitimacy. The election was decided by 62 votes. Last weekend, the commission invalidated 25 votes for Eric Bauman, the winner, and 22 for Kimberly Ellis, who lost the election, but Ellis noted its overt bias for Bauman, the party establishment’s choice for the position. Ellis has indicated that a lawsuit will likely have to be filed to hold the party accountable.
In May 2017, the California Democratic Party paid a small fine over allegations that it laundered big oil money to Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown’s 2014 re-election campaign. A watchdog organization noted the small fine was the result of lax campaign finance laws that demand irrefutable evidence of a quid pro quo, but that’s now how political corruption works anymore. “When pundits moan about ‘no smoking gun’ and ‘no quid pro quo,’ they must be referring to some cartoon definition of corruption, as if it involved an envelope stuffed with dead presidents, handed over to some grubby-fingered hack in the backroom of a greasy tavern with a tired Kiefer Sutherland doing the voice-over,” wrote John Kass in an August 2016 op-ed for the Chicago Tribune. “But people with governments and nations in the palms of their hands don’t deal that way.”
The Democratic Party focuses on anti-Trump rhetoric but largely ignores the corruption among its members. While party leaders fend off progressives’ calls for reform, the current Democrats in office serve as walking examples of why accountability is needed. As voters become privy to the party’s incessant scandals, they become apathetic and disenfranchised.