Perhaps this will go down as The Year Two Indicted Congressmen Ran for Re-election.
OK, not necessarily. We do have a lot of other … stuff going on.
Still, it’s a moment to remember. We have the insider-trading guy in upstate New York and a California representative who allegedly used campaign contributions for, um, personal matters.
Duncan Hunter, the California Republican, was charged with spending more than $250,000 in political donations on not-at-all-eligible priorities. At first we heard mention of things like dental work and plane fare for the family’s pet rabbit. And honestly, if the list had stayed in the bunny-root-canal level we might not be discussing it right now.
However, things progressed quickly to the point where Hunter’s lawyer was defending him by arguing that “evidence of infidelity, irresponsibility or alcohol dependence, once properly understood … do not equate to criminal activity.”
Then we moved on to the congressmen’s extramarital expenses. “This is the first time I’ve heard of use of campaign money to finance multiple mistresses,” said Fred Wertheimer of Democracy 21.
Meanwhile in New York, Republican Chris Collins is running under an insider-trading cloud. He’s accused of telling his son to sell 1.3 million shares in an Australian drug company after he received a private warning that its much-anticipated new drug had failed its tests.
Collins and Hunter were the first two members of Congress to endorse Donald Trump for president. Just saying.
The question now is whether voters are going to re-elect these guys. Both are from safe Republican districts.
Hunter’s opponent, Democrat Ammar Campa-Najjar, is only 29, but he worked in the Obama White House, and as a director at the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and he owns a media consulting company. It’s a pretty impressive history for a guy who grew up poor, the son of a Mexican-American mother whose husband had left the family.
That missing father was of Palestinian descent, and Campa-Najjar’s paternal grandfather, who died before he was born, was part of the 1972 Munich massacre of Olympic athletes.
We can either celebrate Campa-Najjar as an example of the American ability to move beyond the dead weight of your family’s past, or jump right into the great swamp of terrorism-terrorizing.
Three guesses which way Hunter’s going. “He’s used three different names to hide his family ties to terrorism,” runs one Republican ad. Voters will get to decide whether they want to be represented by a guy who once worked at the White House or a guy who could not currently get a security clearance to walk in the door, given the current indictment unpleasantness.
Collins, who seems to rely heavily on mentioning the name of Nancy Pelosi whenever possible, is still a slight favorite to win in a district that Donald Trump won by 25 points. The voters still have more than a week to decide whether they really want a congressman who uses the “Values” section of his web page to define “Personal Accountability” as “never increasing entitlement programs.”
Here’s one bright spot: This isn’t the worst year on record for indicted congressmen running to stay in office. Back in 1978, we had four. And there would have been five except that authorities in New York agreed to drop charges of soliciting sex from a minor against Rep. Fred Richmond after Richmond, a Democrat, agreed to go to a counseling program.
Nobody running for Congress this year has been indicted for brawling at a club full of naked women. So far.
Writes for The New York Times.