Nathan Stubbs

Landrieu's dubious distinction

by Nathan Stubbs

The nonprofit government watchdog Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) has just released its fourth annual list of “The 20 most corrupt members of Congress” and Louisiana is well represented. Not surprisingly, indicted New Orleans Congressman William “Dollar Bill” Jefferson returns to the roster. Perhaps more controversially, second term Sen. Mary Landrieu has found herself on the list for the first time. CREW cites Landrieu’s support for a $2 million earmark that went to one of her campaign contributors to implement the Voyager literacy program in D.C. schools. The earmark was the subject of a scathing Washington Post investigation earlier this year, which noted how the reading program was largely untested and how one of the heads of Voyager threw a major fundraiser for Landrieu around the time the funds were appropriated by Congreess. Landrieu has since defended herself with documentation showing that the earmark for Voyager was supported by D.C. school officials and had been in the works several months prior to the fundraiser.

With CREW’s dubious distinction, Landrieu’s campaign has prepared a fact sheet disputing the charge of corruption. The campaign says Voyager is a worthwhile children’s literacy program supported by many officials including La.’s other Senator, David Vitter. Landrieu’s camp also cites a Jan. 2008 article by the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call alleging that CREW’s ethics targets are at times at political odds with the organization's donors, which it does not disclose. Landrieu is up for re-election this year, facing off against Republican John Kennedy in the Nov. 4 election. Kennedy's campaign has pounced on Landrieu's inclusion in CREW's "most corrput" list. Kennedy spokesman Lenny Alcivar says the list shows that "Washington is broken - and Mary Landrieu helped break it."