THE SCANDAL WILL GROW
Dec 3, 2005
Expect even more explosive disclosures of corruption on Capitol Hill to come soon as Justice Department investigations move into high gear.
Under recent plea agreements, both former Washington lobbyist Michael Scanlon and disgraced Rep. Duke Cunningham, R-Calif., agreed to tell prosecutors everything they know about friends and associates involved in misdeeds. What they've confided isn't yet known, but the Justice Department has reassigned more than 50 prosecutors to gumshoe the evidence.
Some very messy revelations could come as early as next month, when ex-Washington lobbying powerhouse Jack Abramoff goes on trial in Florida with his one-time business partner Adam Kidan. The charges involve phony financing of the 2000 purchase of SunCruz Casino _ an offshore gaming concern wrangled from entrepreneur Gus Boulis, who was later assassinated by a Mob-connected hit squad.
Meantime, prosecutors in Washington are piecing together the alleged involvement of Scanlon and Abramoff in finding lucrative lobbying jobs for former aides to House Republican Leader Tom DeLay as well as the contracts awarded to several defense contractors that bribed Cunningham.
When he heads off to the slammer for pocketing more than $2 million in bribes, at least Cunningham will have the comfort of knowing he will have a congressional pension as a post-prison cushion.
Pete Sepp of the National Taxpayers Union says that under the lavish benefits that lawmakers reward themselves, Cunningham is entitled to at least $36,000 a year in pension benefits after serving 17 years in Congress. Sepp said it could be much higher _ $64,000 a year _ if he chose to add in his 21 years of military service. If Cunningham made the maximum contributions from his salary to the congressional thrift plan _ the Capitol's version of a 401(k) plan, he could also have a $274,000 nest egg.
Other benefits given ex-lawmakers: medical care for life (something the prison system will provide for the duration of Cunningham's yet-to-be-determined prison sentence) and a life insurance policy. House rules also give all former members lifetime gym privileges.