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Tilting at Windmills

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July 30, 2010

A DEMOCRAT'S ETHICS PROBE VS. A REPUBLICAN'S CRIMINAL PROBE.... If the accounts from major media outlets are any indication, the political world is awfully excited about the ethics allegations against Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.). To be sure, the interest is warranted -- the allegations against the former Ways and Means Committee chairman are serious; Republicans are thrilled; and the controversy has literally become front-page, above-the-fold news.

There may be some rule that I'm not aware of, prohibiting coverage of Republican scandals, but while a House Democrat's ethics problems intensify, a sitting Republican senator is still the subject of an ongoing criminal investigation, which is also getting more serious.

The Senate on Thursday night quietly approved a resolution that will allow Sen. John Ensign's aides to testify to a federal grand jury investigating the aftermath of the Nevada Republican's extramarital affair with a former campaign aide.

By voice vote, the Senate approved the resolution that would authorize employees of the Senate to give testimony to a grand jury in Washington.

Senate aides said that the resolution was necessary because Senate rules would prohibit employees from testifying outside of the halls of Congress.

Politico added that the move, which nearly every major outlet ignored, "is the latest sign that the investigation ... continues to move swiftly."

This development comes just a week after Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), a former Ensign housemate, announced that he'd agreed to cooperate with the federal criminal investigation surrounding the conservative Nevadan. Coburn turned over more than 1,200 pages of documents to the Justice Department, including emails from Ensign.

And that development came on the heels of news that Ensign's aides have told investigators that the senator knew he was violating ethics rules on lobbying restrictions, but did it anyway.

As a rule, when a high-profile U.S. senator is facing a criminal investigation, the media shows at least some interest. When that investigation involves sex, the media tends to show quite a bit of interest.

But for reasons I still can't explain the Republican Nevadan is getting a pass. Here we have John Ensign, a "family values" conservative Republican, who had an extra-marital sexual relationship with his friend's wife, while condemning others' moral failings. Ensign's parents offered to pay hush-money. He ignored ethics laws and tried to use his office to arrange lobbying jobs for his mistress' husband. The likelihood of Ensign being indicted seems fairly high.

And yet, there's no media frenzy. No reporters staked out in front of Ensign's home. No op-eds speculating about the need for Ensign to resign in disgrace. Instead, the media's fascinated with Charlie Rangel.

Rangel is facing a probe from the House ethics committee, while Ensign is under scrutiny from the FBI.

Is this just the IOKIYAR rule taken to the extreme? Was there some kind of memo stating that only Democratic scandals deserve media attention in an election year?

Steve Benen 9:45 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (27)

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Comments

Maybe Ensign has compromising photos of Anderson Cooper. Or, worse, Wolf Blitzer.

Posted by: AnotherStrayCat on July 30, 2010 at 9:50 AM | PERMALINK

Why are Republicans so contemptuous of traditional values like marital fidelity and honesty in government?

Posted by: Basilisc on July 30, 2010 at 9:52 AM | PERMALINK

Charlie Rangel is an important 20 term congressman from New York City. He spent decades as a media darling. They all know him. Ensign is the junior senator from Las Vegas charged with having sex with a staffer and trying to cover it up. The Ensign case, especially the cover-up, may be more serious criminally, but Charlie is a far more important personality. Anyway the media understand that what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.

Posted by: Ron Byers on July 30, 2010 at 9:57 AM | PERMALINK

"Was there some kind of memo stating that only Democratic scandals deserve media attention in an election year?"

None needed - they all know the rules.

Posted by: Mark-NC on July 30, 2010 at 10:04 AM | PERMALINK

Everybody knows republican are corrupt hyprocrites. That's what they're elected for. So it's not news.

Uh.

Posted by: paul on July 30, 2010 at 10:04 AM | PERMALINK

Ditto what Ron Byers said about Rangel being a more prominent political figure, thus gets more media attention whether it's for good things he's done or scandals he's engaged in. And of course, since he represents NYC, the NYC press will cover it --- and the NYC press pretty much is national press. I'm sure the Nevada press is paying roughly equal attention to Ensign (though I don't know for sure), but how many people read the Nevada papers daily, versus the New York Times?

Additionally, Rangel is up for re-election this year, Ensign is not.

That said, I wouldn't be surprised if there were an element of IOKIYAR as well.

Posted by: David Bailey on July 30, 2010 at 10:06 AM | PERMALINK

Unfortunately, I think this is one where the papers are getting it right. Ensign's story is salacious but otherwise largely meaningless except in Nevada. Rangel headed Ways & Means (which writes tax law, among other things) and is charged with tax dodging, misuse of four (!) rent controlled apartments and doing favors for a big donor. That's some serious s**t. Also, he has the misfortune to be elected from a district with hometown papers that have national distribution.

Posted by: Foster Boondoggle on July 30, 2010 at 10:10 AM | PERMALINK

Is this just the IOKIYAR rule taken to the extreme?

What do you mean, extreme? It's just the IOKIYAR, period. Next question.

Posted by: Lifelong Dem on July 30, 2010 at 10:14 AM | PERMALINK

How about Roy Blunt - voted the most corrupt politician.
Rick Perry - still doing his shady deals & Darryl Issa doing the same thing, profiteering from foreclosed properties that he is getting below the bank price - when the bank has a higher offer.
Would love to see something on them.

Posted by: js on July 30, 2010 at 10:15 AM | PERMALINK

The invisible hand of the croney capitalist puppeteer .
Breitbart will continue , with a brief hiatus , to inform the public of our masters latest lament of the assault against might makes right .

Posted by: FRP on July 30, 2010 at 10:17 AM | PERMALINK

Thou shalt not covet thy neighbors wife, unless you're a Republican.

Posted by: mikefromArlington on July 30, 2010 at 10:21 AM | PERMALINK

I think this one is simply a matter of it being more important if you're in the majority. While people noted Jefferson's "money in the freezer" scandal, it didn't get the play of DeLay or Mark Foley. That's because it was done by a member of the minority. Nobody notices.

Moreover, we titter over sex scandals, but care about money scandals, unless it's a powerful majority person. Larry Craig and David Vitter are just not as important as 13 counts of serious financial issues.

Rangel is a powerful politician, former chair of the most powerful committee in the house, who's been in the House for almost 40 years. Ensign is a backbench Senator. There's just no real comparison.

I'm as sensitive as anyone to IOIYAR. But I think this one might actually be different standards because they're not comparable.

Posted by: Ron on July 30, 2010 at 10:22 AM | PERMALINK

There may be some rule that I'm not aware of, prohibiting coverage of Republican scandals...

While deserved, you do not maintain a perch at an establishment media outlet, one that 'informs' low-information voters. Thus, you did not get the memo, or the payoff.

Posted by: terraformer on July 30, 2010 at 10:27 AM | PERMALINK

Republican corruption is old news, and the bar for serious media attention is set at molesting young boys. Not to mention the Rangel case allows them to say, "look we go after republicans too! ", which broadens the opportunity to appeal to a wider audience, increase revenue excetera.

Posted by: DelCapslock on July 30, 2010 at 10:28 AM | PERMALINK

Recently, Politico ran a web poll on opinions of the Rangel affair. I commented and asked when they were going to do the same on the Ensign matter. It is awlfully strange that the Media seems to ignore the issue and try to divert our attention.

Posted by: fillphil on July 30, 2010 at 10:33 AM | PERMALINK

The swamp is being drained...

Posted by: Nancy on July 30, 2010 at 10:47 AM | PERMALINK

"Recently, Politico ran a web poll on opinions of the Rangel affair. I commented and asked when they were going to do the same on the Ensign matter. It is awlfully strange that the Media seems to ignore the issue and try to divert our attention."

Please see comment below...


"Unfortunately, I think this is one where the papers are getting it right. Ensign's story is salacious but otherwise largely meaningless except in Nevada. Rangel headed Ways & Means (which writes tax law, among other things) and is charged with tax dodging, misuse of four (!) rent controlled apartments and doing favors for a big donor. That's some serious s**t. Also, he has the misfortune to be elected from a district with hometown papers that have national distribution."

Posted by: Obvious on July 30, 2010 at 10:55 AM | PERMALINK

America wants its "news" in small, easily digestible bites. One need only scan the supermarket headlines at the check out counter to see evidence of this.

Nuance doesn't sell; White papers are not colorful enough to hold our interest.

Currently there is an ad running beside this post, reminding us that Christine Amanpour debuts this Sunday. I'll watch, hopeful. . .

Posted by: DAY on July 30, 2010 at 11:07 AM | PERMALINK

The only difference that I can see is that Charlie Rangel is from a Puerto Rico immigrant family who made his life on his own, while Ensign is a member of the wealthy blue-bloods who run America and who dislike the lower classes (like Charlie.)

The large centralized news media do not write or speak harshly about the wealthy aristocrats who run America. Charlie, as an upstart out of nowhere, gets no such protection.

Posted by: Rick B on July 30, 2010 at 11:12 AM | PERMALINK

"The large centralized news media do not write or speak harshly about the wealthy aristocrats who run America. Charlie, as an upstart out of nowhere, gets no such protection."

John Edwards comes to mind.

Posted by: Esq. on July 30, 2010 at 11:14 AM | PERMALINK

The only difference that I can see is that Charlie Rangel is from a Puerto Rico immigrant family who made his life on his own, while Ensign is a member of the wealthy blue-bloods who run America and who dislike the lower classes (like Charlie.)

The large centralized news media do not write or speak harshly about the wealthy aristocrats who run America. Charlie, as an upstart out of nowhere, gets no such protection.

------

Hey stupid, he was born in Harlem, NYC and has been in office for over 30 years. Yeah, an immigrant and upstart. Tell ya what moron, I got a bridge for sale too. Great neighborhood, fantastic view, classic look...

Posted by: Sal on July 30, 2010 at 11:20 AM | PERMALINK

Hey asshat, Rick B. said Rangel's FAMILY were imigrants, not Charlie. Read much?

Posted by: G.Kerby on July 30, 2010 at 11:31 AM | PERMALINK

an other interesting angle to the ensign trainwreck is that both of the woman are attractive...perfect people magazine [or inquirer] cover fodder...the fact that ensign got his family into the bribery biz has some entertainment value, too

Posted by: dj spellchecka on July 30, 2010 at 12:15 PM | PERMALINK

an other interesting angle to the ensign trainwreck is that both of the woman are attractive...perfect people magazine [or inquirer] cover fodder...the fact that ensign got his family into the bribery biz has some entertainment value, too

Trainwreck? Yeah, right. At least he pays his taxes. Getting more play is his own (and good) business...

Posted by: John K. on July 30, 2010 at 12:18 PM | PERMALINK

ensign is currently under scrutiny from the fbi but "at least he pays his taxes".....heckuva talking point....i suspect his wife [and parents] would disagree with this stuff being "good business."

Posted by: dj spellchecka on July 30, 2010 at 2:31 PM | PERMALINK

What does "IOKIYAR" mean?

[It's an acronym for "It's Okay If You're A Republican." We will go ahead and clear up any confusion, since the boss used it on the teevee machine last night. --Moderators]

Posted by: Ignorant on July 31, 2010 at 3:39 PM | PERMALINK

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Posted by: SMS on December 7, 2010 at 11:37 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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