A quarter of a century ago the United States Congressional Post Office was used as a big Cookie Jar by corrupt politicians. The scandal was discovered when corruption among various Congressional Post Office employees and members of the United States House of Representatives was discovered and investigated. We all know investigations take time, lots of time, when they involve Democrats. This investigation began in 1991 and finally exhausted all avenues of stalling and obfuscating three years later.
The lengthy investigation begin by the United States Capitol Police into a single embezzlement charge against a single employee but that was just the tip of the iceberg. Evidence rapidly led to the inclusion of several other employees, before top Democrats in the House of Representatives moved to shut down the whole line of inquiry, despite protests from Frank Kerrigan, chief of the Capitol Police.
A new investigation was started by the United States Postal Service, which eventually submitted a report which was held in silence by Speaker Thomas Foley (D-WA) until media reports of embezzlement and money laundering leaked out. After that, the Democratic apologists including almost all of the Media in the United States, developed the tight lipped disease where Democratic Scandals are involved. They became as mum as the National Security Agency about unconstitutional spying on law abiding citizens and our best allies. I know, the Speaker of the House setting on a report of criminal activity by fellow Congressmen causes you to gasp with shock and dismay.
The issue again subsided until July 1993, when former Postmaster Rota pleaded guilty to three criminal charges, implicating House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dan Rostenkowski and former Representative Joe Kolter in an illegal scheme to trade stamps or official House postal vouchers for cash. Soon thereafter Representative Istook began calling for an Ethics Committee investigation of these allegations. Largely on the argument that an Ethics Committee investigation might interfere with the workings of an ongoing grand jury inquiry, Istook agreed not to force a vote on his request, but did introduce a resolution (H.Res. 238) calling for such a probe. The resolution had 60 cosponsors.
Istook’s request had been pending for six months. In the meantime, authority for the first grand jury expired and a second panel had to start work anew, this time under the third U.S. Attorney to supervise the case — a Clinton appointee. Istook argues that further delay based on potential grand jury action is unwarranted, if indeed it was ever justified. As the House was preparing to leave for a week-long recess on February 10, 1994, Istook gave notice that he would demand a vote on his request for an Ethics Committee investigation as soon as the House returns. Since this is a matter of privilege under House Rules, the Speaker must schedule the vote within two legislative days, making it necessary for the House to consider the issue within a day of its return on February 22.
The Constitution gives the House the authority, and by implication the responsibility, to discipline its members. In other cases House leaders have acted aggressively to preserve the prerogatives of the House to discipline Members, rejecting attempts by the executive branch or the judiciary. This separation of powers argument is a key justification, for instance, for congressional self- exemptions from legal requirements or enforcement procedures under many civil rights and worker protection laws. Representative Rose, who chaired the original Post Office investigation, claimed that Ethics Committee action regarding alleged deficiencies in his own financial disclosure statements precludes subsequent court action on the same charges. The logic of these arguments would demand that the Justice Department stand aside for an internal House probe of its Post Office, rather than the other way around. At a minimum it is clear that there is no legal or constitutional requirement for the House to delay an inquiry into the conduct of its own Members in anticipation of potential action by the executive branch.
Istook responded to charges that a House inquiry might interfere with the Justice Department probe by requiring, in his resolution, that the Ethics Committee cooperate with Justice and by allowing the committee to suspend its inquiry with respect to any Member who is already under investigation. While media attention has focused on allegations regarding Representative Rostenkowski, Istook’s resolution orderd a broader inquiry which would determine whether other Members violated House rules in connection with the Post Office. Such matters might well fall below the standard for criminal prosecution, but still could warrant internal House action.
Finally, Istook argues against the House simply awaiting executive branch action, pointing out that the Reno Justice Department’s record in politically sensitive cases including Whitewater, the death of Vincent Foster, and the State Department personnel files (where Justice refused to prosecute, despite a recommendation from the State Department’s Inspector General), inspires little confidence. It was in anticipation of precisely this sort of politically sensitive situation that the Constitution granted Congressmen partial immunity from arrest and gave each House power to discipline its own Members. Abdicating that responsibility in such a high profile case would again show that the House is incapable of managing its internal affairs, and strengthen arguments for remedies such as independent counsels and subjecting Members to executive branch regulators.
By this time, the House Post Office scandal had dragged on for three years. Despite the criminal convictions of several staff members, House leaders continued to resist a thorough investigation of Representatives’ conduct. While caution to avoid interference with criminal probes might be appropriate, such external efforts are no excuse for the House failing to deal with its internal scandal. Istook’s motion for an Ethics Committee investigation would ensure that House Members could no longer avoid this issue.
Following a public outcry and media reports that revealed embezzlement and drug sales had taken place in the House Post Office. Democratic leaders referred the matter to the House Administration Committee, which established an investigative task force. The task force’s investigation was marked by partisan disputes, leading to the issuance of separate Republican and Democratic reports. Democratic Task Force Leader Charles Rose of North Carolina declared the matter closed, but the Republican report raised numerous questions about illegal activity and mismanagement in the Post Office, noting that many issues could not be resolved by the task force because important records were unavailable and because Rota and other Post Office employees were not questioned under oath. Rota subsequently admitted that he misled the task force. The House agreed to put the Post Office under the control of a new, nonpartisan administrator, but took no action to clarify questions raised by the Republican task force report or to investigate and consider disciplinary action against specific employees or Members, a step which can be taken only by the Ethics Committee.
Investigations always have a way of putting the Media and the Citizens at ease. Government Investigations, especially Inspector General Investigations are usually just cover-ups and ways to keep from embarrassing the government. They’re not unlike government meetings where NOTHING EVER GETS DONE! Democrats never change, nothing to see here, move along, what me worry? Do I need to mention Benghazi here and the torture deaths of four Americans? Back in the 1990’s, who played the part of Elijah Cummings and Nancy Pelosi? Was there anybody piercing enough to drown out inquiries?
It was when Congressional Postmaster Robert Rota pleaded guilty to three criminal charges, implicating Representatives Dan Rostenkowski (D-IL) and Joe Kolter (D-PA) that the log jam broke. The Congressmen were accused of heading a conspiracy to launder Post Office money through stamps and postal vouchers. Yes Toto, we’re not in Kansas anymore, the Lawmakers are exposed as Lawbreakers. Sleaze taking place right there in the Nation’s Capitol, what will the Watergate Burglars think?
The climax was reached when Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, Dan Rostenkowski was convicted and sentenced to 18 months in Federal Prison. The ever compassionate and empathetic President Bill Clinton pardoned Rostenkowski in 2000 so he could run for office again and vote for Democrats along with all the dead people.
Rostenkowski’s conviction rattled the Democratic Party. Prior to the scandal, his position as Ways and Means Chairman made him one of the most powerful men in Washington D.C. His conviction in 1995 accentuated the corrupt nature of Congress at a time when the president experienced a “scandal-a-week.” At the same time, another House Scandal involving check kiting gripped the body. The scandals engulfing the Democratic Party in the early-to-mid 1990s helped lead to the Republican takeover of Congress in 1994.
The Democrats had ruled the House of Representatives for around 40 years. The lengthy run led to arrogance and corruption culminating in several House scandals. The Post Office Scandal helped bring down one of the most powerful men in the capitol and combined with a banking scandal and Clinton Administration scandals to destroy the Democratic majority. The 1994 elections shocked the Democrats to their core and led to a GOP majority for 12 years.
Now dear friends, you can change the names of the criminals and change the scandal from the Congressional Post Office to Benghazi, the IRS, NSA or Fast and Furious and you have the story. Congressman Trey Gowdy has yet to write the latest Chapter. Who will go to Federal Prison this time? Is there anybody left in Washington who will object, strenuously object, to criminal behavior involving the ruling class? Has lawlessness and corruption grown to be so ingrained that even Wolf Blitzer and Candy Crowley won’t even find it newsworthy? That’s a rhetorical question.
UPDATE: Dan Rostenkowski wrote an article defending Chicago politics titled, “In Defense of Chicago Politics.” Here is the first paragraph:
“During my career as a public official, I always tried to steer away from the minority of my colleagues who viewed public service as a potential commercial enterprise. They’ve always been there and can be found in state capitols and in Washington.”
Uhhhhh, Dan Rostenkowski (D – Illinois) who was booted out of the U.S. House of Representatives after being indicted on 17 felony charges, including the theft of $695,000 in taxpayer and campaign money….Hardly the actions of someone who should be writing about political ethics and morality.
Can you believe Rosty had the audacity to show his face in general, let alone during a Chicago bribe scandal……. can you believe the Democrat Party wants this felon piping up to defend the Chicago machine. It doesn’t make sense, but I’m pretty sure that logic and decency has never been a hallmark of the Democrat Party since Harry Truman left the White House and drove himself and Bess back to Missouri.