Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Jeff Fortenberry's "Louisiana Limbo"

by Kyle Michaelis
Lowering the bar in Nebraska politics since 2005.

Thanks to the Nebraska Democratic Party for calling out Republican first-term (hopefully only-term) Congressman Jeff Fortenberry for again taking a large campaign contribution tainted by the unmistakeable stench of corruption.

Having already taken tens of thousands of dollars from the combined likes of convicted felon Duke Cunningham and the disgraced Dark Prince of Republican Politics, Tom DeLay, it should come as little surprise that another Republican corruption scandal has yet another tie to the Fortenberry campaign. This time, the putrid pipeline runs from the Future Leaders PAC of California Congressman and Appropriations Committee Chair Jerry Lewis, one of Fortenberry's largest donors.

With Cunningham sitting in a federal prison and DeLay's recent resignation, it's sad to see that Fortenberry still isn't being more careful about the company he keeps in Congress. As the New York Times reported earlier this month, it seems Lewis is just another in a long line of big-time Fortenberry benefactors to have abused his position and betrayed his country in the name of partisan politics and personal gain:
Mr. Lewis and other lawmakers may have traded earmarks for illicit payments from lobbyists and contractors — an outgrowth of the bribery indictment of Randy ["Duke"] Cunningham, a former congressman from California.

Speaking on condition of anonymity because the inquiry is continuing, federal officials who have been briefed on it say prosecutors are looking into [Letitia] White's ties to Mr. Lewis, her old boss, and to his friend Bill Lowery, a former California congressman who is now Ms. White's lobbying partner.

While working for Mr. Lewis, Ms. White helped direct several hundred million dollars in contracts to clients of Mr. Lowery's firm. The firm and its clients, meanwhile, accounted for more than a third of the $1.3 million Mr. Lewis's political action committee has raised since 2000.

There is, of course, a lot more to the allegations and the investigation surrounding Lewis, his cohorts, and cronies, but that right there is the gist of it. Though I can't vouch for all of the accusations contained therein, a blog titled Down With Tyranny (1, 2) has a pretty good run-down of Lewis' apparently corrupt conduct.

An anonymous blogger at the NDP's website attempted to deflect criticism of Fortenberry for his ties to Lewis and the larger Culture of Corruption by simply mentioning Democratic Congressman William Jefferson of Louisiana (whose example taught me a valuable lesson here). To this cyncial defense, I made the following response:
I don’t think anyone around here is going to defend Congressman Jefferson of Louisiana. It’s worth noting, however, that the personal allegations against him haven’t touched Nebraska in the same way as the corrupt workings of the Republican money machine.

Just look at this: Duke Cunningham sits in prison, Tom DeLay has resigned in disgrace, and Congressman Lewis is well on his way to following suit on one or both accounts. Between these three paragons of vice, Jeff Fortenberry has been rewarded with over $40,000 in just his first term in Congress for nothing more than being a ready, willing, and seemingly eager participant in the Republicans’ influence-peddling pyramid scheme.

Fortenberry has invited their corruption into our state in the form of campaign contributions greater than the annual salary of your average honest and hard-working Nebraskan. Jefferson, on the other hand, has no such connection to Nebraska – whatever his crime. In fact, his closest connection would be Jeff Fortenberry because they both call the state of Louisiana home.

I guess this sort of corruption is just more acceptable in that part of the country, but there was a time when Nebraska was above this sort of hyper-partisan style of self-serving politics. There was a time when we actually expected better of our representatives.

Fortenberry is personally responsible for lowering the bar in Nebraska politics. Here’s hoping the voters of the First District will end this game of the “Louisiana Limbo” when they get the chance this November.

And that's pretty much all I have to say about that. Questions? Comments?


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