A flood of corruption scandals involving state and local Democratic Party lawmakers is threatening to muddy the party’s image as it enters what was already a tough election cycle.
In a week Democrats won’t soon forget, the Democrat-dominated California Senate took the unprecedented step Friday of voting 28-1 to suspend with pay three state senators in their own party accused or convicted of criminal conduct.State Sen. Leland Yee was arrested Wednesday on federal gun trafficking and corruption charges. Sen. Ron Calderon pleaded not guilty Feb. 24 to charges of influence-peddling, and Sen. Roderick Wright was convicted Jan. 28 of perjury and voter fraud.
None of the state senators has resigned from office, although Mr. Yee has pulled out of the race for California secretary of state.
“One is an anomaly, two a coincidence, but three? That’s not what this Senate is about,” California Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg said to lawmakers before the suspension vote.
Meanwhile, Patrick Cannon, the Democratic mayor of Charlotte, N.C., resigned Wednesday after he was charged with accepting more than $48,000 in bribes during an FBI sting operation. In Rhode Island, the Democrat-led state legislature voted to replace former House Speaker Gordon Fox, who stepped down after the FBI raided his home and office.
The FBI also conducted a Wednesday raid on the offices of New York Assemblyman William Scarborough, another Democrat. Mr. Scarborough told reporters later that the raid centered on whether he had abused his state expense account.
In Illinois, federal agents Wednesday seized computers at the home and office of Democratic state Rep. Keith Farnham, who resigned March 19, citing health concerns. The Associated Press reported that the agents were searching for evidence of child pornography.
The sheer number of federal arrests and raids stunned liberal commentators such as MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, who noted last week that California Democrats lost their supermajority in the state Senate because of the inactive status of the three lawmakers.
“[T]here are now three Democratic state senators with federal criminal indictments against them just this session resulting already in eight felony convictions,” Ms. Maddow said. “And yes, the Republican Party is essentially defunct in most of the California and probably beyond reviving, but if anything can bring them back, it’s probably days like this.”
On the other side are conservatives asking whether the Obama administration’s Justice Department is deliberately cleaning house on behalf of the Democratic Party now to prevent the scandals from cropping up in the weeks before the Nov. 4 elections.
“It is entirely possible that the head honchos of the Democrat Party are basically behind an effort to take out all of their bad apples before the election; make them old news by the time the election comes around,” conservative radio talk-show host Rush Limbaugh said on his Friday show.
“The timing here is obviously curious, and it really is hard to believe the FBI would be working against the wishes of the regime, isn’t it?” Mr. Limbaugh said.
Michelle Malkin, an author of “Culture of Corruption: Obama and His Team of Tax Cheats, Crooks, and Cronies,” reminded her readers in a Friday column that House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, accused Republicans of creating a “culture of corruption” during the 2006 election cycle.
Those scandals, which resulted in the resignations of four congressional Republicans, triggered a backlash that helped Democrats capture both the House and Senate.
“[Mrs. Pelosi] cast herself and her minions as America’s political clean-up crew. But once again, the culture of corruption boomerang has swung back around to smack Democrats in their smug mugs,” said Ms. Malkin. “The cynical Swamp Drainers just hope you forget it all by election time. Don’t.”
Democrats counter that Republicans have had their own share of recent scandals, including the federal indictment of former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, who are accused of accepting illegal gifts.
Although Mr. McDonnell is the higher-profile figure, he has been overwhelmed by the sheer number of Democratic local and state officials facing corruption accusations. Examples include the corruption conviction in January of former New Orleans Mayor C. Ray Nagin and the bribery conviction in February of former Trenton, N.J., Mayor Tony Mack.
Republican strategist Dick Wadhams said the corruption scandals could hurt Democrats in state and local elections, especially in the vicinity of the accused wrongdoers.
“I think it hurts Democrats in the jurisdictions where these elected officials come from,” said Mr. Wadhams. “The preponderance of the incidents is certainly not news for the Democrats across the country, but I would say it would have more of a local effect.”He added that the scandals may be a byproduct of California’sDemocratic Party dominance.
00:01 Telling the truth
00:28 Being in the pocket of Wall Street
00:44 The Clinton Foundation, Saudi Arabia
04:48 Paid speeches for Wall Street
09:40 Housing crisis
10:09 Glass-Steagall Act, banker bailouts
11:26 Wall Street
12:50 Gay marriage
15:02 Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)
15:40 NAFTA, conflicts of interest
17:48 Illegal immigration
18:56 Progressive values
19:34 Email server
27:27 Iraq war
30:06 Patriot Act
30:41 Edward Snowden
31:02 Foreign policy
31:38 Climate change, renewable energy, big oil
34:42 Black Lives Matter
37:12 Fear of black men
39:00 1994 Clinton crime bill, racial prejudice
44:38 Racial wealth gap, deregulation
45:16 Confederate flag controversy
45:42 The Democratic party
45:51 Prison-industrial complex
46:20 Rahm Emanuel
46:46 Bernie Sanders
47:12 Marijuana, criminal justice reform, the drug war
48:03 Attack tactics, healthcare
49:29 Walmart, child labor
50:25 No Child Left Behind Act
51:27 Landing under sniper fire
54:02 Council on Foreign Relations
58:00 Email server, FBI indictment
1:07:23 Personal wealth, houses