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Smelly political, financial reports gag Democrats

Bob Tippee

Not that Republicans haven't exploded their share of stink bombs in recent years, but the week ending Dec. 12, 2008, was especially malodorous for Democrats.

Most attention went to the Dec. 9 arrest of Democratic Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich on suspicion he abused his office for personal gain.

Among numerous outrages in federal charges against him is his alleged intent to sell the Senate seat of President-elect Barack Obama.

Prosecutors stressed that charges against the governor don't implicate Obama, for whom the news nevertheless can be no minor worry.

The Chicago scandal provides a reminder of the sweetheart deal on a Chicago house made for Obama in 2005 by political supporter Tony Rezko, a Blagojevich aide convicted in June on corruption charges.

That mess mostly obscured disclosure, also on Dec. 9, of the expansion of what Democrats hoped would be a quickly finished and forgotten ethics investigation of Charles Rangel (D-NY), chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.

Rangel in September requested that the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct examine his personal finances after questions arose about his control of rent-stabilized apartments in Harlem, unpaid taxes, and use of congressional stationery in fundraising for the Rangel Center for Public Service at the City College of New York.

The investigation now will deal also with a New York Times report that Rangel supported a tax measure favorable to Nabors Industries Ltd. on the same day he met with Nabors Chairman and Chief Executive Eugene Isenberg about a $1 million contribution to the Rangel Center.

Rangel and Isenberg deny any link exists between the tax issue and donation.

Ultimately worse for Democrats might be the arrest on Dec. 11 of New York stock broker and former Nasdaq Stock Market Chairman Bernard Madoff on federal fraud complaints.

Madoff is accused of swindling investors out of $50 billion.

The scandal will exacerbate public skepticism about Wall Street and complicate efforts by a newly Democratic government to solve US economic problems.

And one way Madoff used his allegedly ill-gotten riches was to contribute generously to political campaigns, almost all of them Democratic.

(Online Dec. 12, 2008; author's e-mail:

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