Editorial: A corrupt autocracy

George W. Bush promised to restore “honor and integrity” to our nation’s capital. But Jack Abramoff’s guilty plea on bribery charges has sent dozens of politicians in Washington scurrying like rats for holes to hide in. His testimony in a sweeping criminal probe of government corruption could make the Teapot Dome scandal look like a Sunday school picnic.

The White House announced that cash Abramoff delivered to the Bush-Cheney campaign will be given to the American Cancer Society. House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) announced that he has given $69,000 in Abramoff cash to charity. Former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas), one of Abramoff’s closest cronies, denied he did anything wrong in accepting all-expenses-paid golf trips and free gourmet meals from Abramoff’s restaurant.

The plea agreement already singles out Ohio Republican Rep. Bob Ney.

Abramoff enlisted ultra-right strategist Grover Norquist and former Christian Coalition director Ralph Reed in his racketeering. David Safavian was head of the White House procurement office until he was arrested last fall for his corrupt ties to Abramoff. Abramoff’s personal assistant once worked for Karl Rove, Bush’s chief political strategist.

Swindling Native American Indian casinos of $43 million was the heart of Abramoff’s criminal enterprise. Abramoff money may also have helped bankroll DeLay’s racist redistricting scheme in Texas, aimed at picking up five House seats for the GOP at the expense of Black and Latino voters. DeLay is on trial for “money laundering” in that scheme.

It is not the only criminal trial under way. Enron CEO Ken Lay is on trial for defrauding millions of people, plunging his corporation into bankruptcy. Bush used to call him “Kenny Boy.” Lewis “Scooter” Libby has been indicted over the scheming to sell the Iraq war, and his boss Cheney could be indicted too.

This pervasive “bought and paid for” corruption flows from Republican one-party rule with no checks and balances and no accountability. The question is: Will voters rise up in this election year and end this arrogant autocracy? The stench of corporate corruption that engulfs our Republican-controlled capital cries out for a big broom that sweeps clean next November!