Tuesday, December 23, 2008

fattah, rangel, and caroline kennedy

Some of you may have noticed newspaper reports of an FBI investigation of Cong. Chaka Fattah (D-Pa.), whom I ran against before withdrawing last summer. The allegations involve potential irregularities in the use of funds by a federally funded scholarship program, CORE Philly, which Fattah founded four years ago and suddenly shut down last month. Fattah has described the investigation as "an audit of a past grant," but the books of the operation don't seem to add up, and the Inquirer, which hardly even bothers to cover Fattah's opponents, appears to be taking it pretty seriously.

I don't wish Fattah any bad luck, although rumors about his ethics (or lack thereof) have swirled about Philadelphia for some time. But it's hard to avoid the fact that--when you win reelection so easily you don't even have to campaign--there's an awfully strong temptation to stretch the rules. Something similar appears to have happened with Charlie Rangel, in New York, and Gov. Rod Blagojevich in Illinois, whose stories have received more national attention.

Although there are no allegations against her, I am fascinated in this context by the candidacy of Caroline Kennedy for Senator, and her apparent refusal either to answer substantive questions or to release financial records in support of her candidacy. We hear a lot about a "new" politics from Obama and his supporters. But an easy election victory can also provide an opportunity for arrogance, in which celebrities, opportunists, and assorted hangers-on take advantage of the lack of competition to pursue their own ambitions. I'll be blogging shortly about a recent book by Rick Perlstein, which describes what happened the last time a Democrat won a convincing national triumph. The name of the book: "Nixonland."


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