The Slate Gist

Bushies Behaving Badly

A guide to GOP scandals.

Return to the main page.

Paul Wolfowitz in the World Bank With Nepotism The World Bank president and “Iraq war architect” allegedly helped his girlfriend get a generous salary package and promotion when she transferred to the State Department. Wolfowitz said an ethics panel approved the deal, but the panel denies it. An investigative committee found that the deal was a conflict of interest. (He apparently helped her career in the past, too.) Wolfowitz critics also allege that he used his position at the bank to promote a conservative agenda on family planning and global warming.

Federal Employees in the Department of Education With Corporate Ties Leading colleges have long received kickbacks for guiding their students to certain loan companies, but a new investigation into the practice has implicated the Department of Education. One department official was suspended for owning stock in a student-loan company called Student Loan Xpress. Loan companies also temporarily lost access to a federal student-information database because they were using it to find borrowers, not just to determine the eligibility of applicants. The House education committee is investigating —and Education Secretary Margaret Spellings is on the defensive. Six years ago, the Department of Education wanted to tighten restrictions on college/loan-company relations, but the Bush administration nixed it.

Bushies in the Election Assistance Commission With Fraud The Bush administration and Karl Rove pushed for U.S. attorneys and others to look into voter fraud more thoroughly, alleging that illegal immigrants (and dead people) are casting ballots. A couple of the recently fired U.S. attorneys said that they were pressured by Republican lawmakers to bring voter-fraud cases they didn’t think warranted attention, and the president himself allegedly spoke to Alberto Gonzales about U.S. attorneys not pushing hard enough to find-voter fraud cases. Last year, the Election Assistance Commission, a federal panel, allegedly altered findings to make it seem like experts thought voter fraud was more pervasive than it really was.

Partisan Hacks in the Press With Bought Agendas Commentator Armstrong Williams was paid $240,000 by the Department of Education to promote No Child Left Behind, while columnists Michael McManus and Maggie Gallagher got $10,000 and $21,500 respectively from the Department of Health and Human Services to push Bush’s Community Healthy Marriage Initiative. After lobbing softballs to President Bush at a press conference, conservative “journalist” (and occasional gay escort) Jeff Gannon was accused of being a plant. Meanwhile, White House “video news releases” made it onto television news broadcasts. The segments, produced by the Department of Health and Human Services, used fake journalists to promote the Medicare expansion bill and were shown on local TV news shows, without any disclosure that they were basically government commercials.

Bernard Kerik in the Department of Homeland Security With the Nanny … and the Publisher … and the Mob … In 2004, Bush tapped former New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik to head the Department of Homeland Security. The nomination fell through when it emerged that Kerik’s nanny was an illegal immigrant. He also had an extramarital affair with publishing dynamo Judith Regan in an apartment donated as a rest stop for 9/11 workers, and he did business with the allegedly mob-linked Interstate Industrial Corp.

Karl Rove in the White House With the Delete Key White House officials allegedly used Republican National Committee e-mail accounts to conduct government business. As many as 5 million messages relating to official business may be lost because users were deleting them, in violation of White House rules requiring that e-mails be saved. Karl Rove says he thought the e-mails were being saved, but some allege that the deletions were a deliberate attempt to keep things off the official record. The missing communiqués interfered with the congressional investigation into White House involvement with the U.S. attorney scandal. The Senate judiciary committee has subpoenaed the Department of Justice e-mails to track them down.

Lester Crawford in the Food and Drug Administration With Tainted Stocks Former FDA Commissioner Lester Crawford recently pleaded guilty to conflict of interest and false reporting for owning stock in companies he oversaw as part of his FDA duties. He was fined $90,000 and sentenced to three years of probation. While heading the FDA, he owned stock in Pepsico Inc., Sysco Corp., and Embrex Inc., a drug company. His brief tenure was marked by debates about emergency contraception—he allegedly tried to keep Plan B from receiving over-the-counter status, contradicting the advice of an FDA expert panel.

Bushies in NASA With the Weird Science NASA scientist James E. Hansen accused Bush appointees of censoring global-warming info and limiting press access to top climate experts. George C. Deutsch, a 24-year-old writer and editor for NASA who had worked for Bush’s 2004 campaign, resigned for lying on his résumé. Deutsch also made NASA Web masters add the word theory to every mention of the big bang.

The GOP Leadership in Congress With Dirty Money In 2003, Rep. Nick Smith said another congressman offered to donate $100,000 to his son’s campaign fund if he voted in favor of a Medicare bill. Smith later recanted, saying there was no bribe—he was just pressured into the vote so his son would get an endorsement. In 2004, the House ethics committee admonished Tom DeLay for violating House rules by offering a quid pro quo and Rep. Candice Miller for appearing to make “threats of retaliation” by saying that Smith’s son would never get elected if Smith didn’t vote for the Medicare bill.

Bored Soldiers in Iraq With the Cameras Soldiers at Abu Ghraib took pictures of prisoners being mistreated. Several of those involved were court-martialed, and some were sent to prison, but they claimed they were acting on orders to soften up the prisoners for interrogation. The highest-ranking person to be held accountable was Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski, who headed the Army Reserve unit running the prison. She was demoted to the rank of colonel but claims she was merely a “scapegoat.” Some critics wondered whether then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld knew about the scandal; Rumsfeld offered his resignation to Bush twice, but the president didn’t accept it.

Eavesdroppers at the National Security Agency With the Wiretaps After 9/11, the National Security Agency started eavesdropping without warrants on phone calls between the United States and overseas parties. Alberto Gonzales defended the wiretaps, but a federal judge ruled that the practice violated both the Constitution and the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. After objections from Democrats and lawsuits filed by the ACLU and the Center for Constitutional Rights, Gonzales announced that, although the program “fully complies with the law,” President Bush would not reauthorize it. The administration continues to push for expanded surveillance laws.

Bureaucrats at Walter Reed With Cockroaches After the Washington Post ran a series detailing the moldy, roach-infested conditions and incompetent bureaucracy of Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Sen. Charles Schumer called the scandal the “Katrina of 2007.” Army Secretary Francis Harvey removed the hospital’s commander, only to be fired himself the next day. Ten days later, the Army surgeon general was gone, too. Investigations are ongoing.

Jack Abramoff on K Street With the Wallet In January 2006, Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff pleaded guilty to conspiracy, fraud, and tax evasion. Between entertaining congressmen with golf junkets to Scotland, trading votes for dinners at his D.C. restaurant, and fleecing Indian tribes, there aren’t many white-collar crimes Abramoff hasn’t committed. He was sentenced to five years and 10 months in federal prison for wire fraud, but might get out sooner. (Abramoff’s misdeeds spawned a massive corruption investigation that is still ongoing.)

Steven Griles in the Department of the Interior With the “Special Relationship” The former deputy interior secretary pleaded guilty to lying about his relationship with Jack Abramoff. Griles initially told the Senate Indian affairs committee that “there was no special relationship for Mr. Abramoff in my office.” In reality, he had intervened in the department on behalf of Abramoff. (For example, he helped block progress on a new Indian casino that would have competed with one of Abramoff’s clients.) Griles will be sentenced in June.

Scooter Libby in the White House With the Faulty Memory After retired diplomat Joe Wilson disputed President Bush’s State of the Union claim that Iraq had sought uranium from Niger, an administration official (later revealed to be Richard Armitage) leaked the classified CIA status of Wilson’s wife, Valerie Plame. The leak led to a federal grand jury investigation examining the roles of, among others, Karl Rove and I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, then-chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney. Libby was indicted and convicted, but not for the leak. Rather, his crimes were perjury, obstruction of justice, and lying to the FBI. His sentencing is set for June 5.

Alberto Gonzales in the Justice Department With the Pink Slips In March 2007, eight fired U.S. attorneys claimed that they were let go for political rather than performance-related reasons. A subsequent congressional investigation led to the resignations of Kyle Sampson, chief of staff to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, and Monica Goodling, the AG’s senior counsel. Gonzales initially denied his involvement in the firings, but documents released to reporters indicated he had attended meetings on the subject. In his testimony to the Senate, he admitted to misspeaking in his initial statements about the firings and said the removal of the attorneys was “flawed,” but insisted he should keep his job.

John Doolittle in Congress With the Campaign Donations The FBI raided the home of California Rep. John Doolittle in April 2007 as part of the Jack Abramoff probe. Doolittle reportedly accepted $14,000 in campaign donations from Abramoff—and a lot more than that from Abramoff’s clients. Doolittle’s wife, Julie, also runs a consulting business with ties to Abramoff.

Mark Foley in Congress With the Instant Messages Florida Rep. Mark Foley resigned amid revelations that he exchanged sexually explicit e-mails and instant messages with former congressional pages. Foley claimed he never actually had sex with any of the minors, and it’s still unclear whether he broke any laws. The flap also raised questions about why Republicans, particularly House Speaker Dennis Hastert, didn’t act on earlier reports of Foley’s inappropriate behavior.  

Halliburton in Iraq With the Defense Contracts Halliburton Co., the multinational energy company helmed by Dick Cheney between 1995 and 2000, scored lucrative contracts to provide logistical support for U.S. troops in Iraq and elsewhere, netting the firm $20 billion over the past five years. Spokespersons for the company have said that Cheney played no role in helping secure the contracts. In 2004, the Justice Department began investigating whether a subsidiary of Halliburton offered a $180 million bribe to secure a contract to build a natural-gas plant in Nigeria back when Cheney was CEO.

Tom DeLay in Congress With the Corporate Funds Rep. Tom DeLay, the former House majority leader known as “the Hammer,”resigned in June 2006 after a Texas grand jury indicted him for financing Republican candidates in state elections with corporate money—a violation of Texas campaign-finance law. DeLay has not been charged in connection with the Jack Abramoff case, but two of his aides pleaded guilty to crimes uncovered by the Abramoff probe. DeLay also took multiple foreign trips on lobbyists’ dimes. (Use this handy scorecard to keep track of the DeLay scandals.)

Randall Tobias in the Massage Parlor With Scented Oils Tobias, head of the Bush administration’s foreign-aid programs, resigned from his post after his name appeared on an escort service’s client list. The service’s proprietor, the so-called “D.C. Madam,” is under investigation for running a prostitution ring. Tobias has denied receiving any illicit services—he just phoned “to have gals come over to the condo to give me a massage.”

Rick Renzi in Congress With the Land Deal Federal prosecutors are investigating a land deal that may have benefited a former business partner of Arizona Rep. Rick Renzi. When his chief of staff phoned the Arizona prosecutor to discuss the investigation, Renzi got swept up in the U.S. attorneys scandal, too. Most recently, the FBI raided his wife’s insurance business, prompting Renzi to step down from two House committees.

Duke Cunningham in Congress With the Candlestick California Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham resigned his congressional seat in late 2005 after pleading guilty to accepting $2.4 million in bribes from defense contractors. Among the gifts he received were Persian rugs, a secondhand Rolls-Royce, access to a contractor’s boat, and silver candlesticks worth $5,600. He is currently serving an eight-and-a-half-year prison sentence.

Dusty Foggo in the CIA With the Bribes The same probe that sent Duke Cunningham to jail led to the indictment of Kyle “Dusty” Foggo. The former CIA executive director allegedly accepted bribes from Brent Wilkes, a high-school friend who also happened to be a defense contractor and a major Republican donor. Foggo, who was appointed in 2004 by then-CIA Director Porter Goss, stands accused of granting Wilkes contracts in return for lavish gifts, including a one-week stay at a Scottish castle. Revelations of Foggo’s sexual proclivities have done little to burnish his reputation, either.