Column: A message for out-of-touch Republicans

"Republicans have done little to demonstrate that they understand that corruption is an issue that extends far beyond partisan lines. There was a lot of talk about passing ethics reforms after disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff pleaded guilty to corruption charges a few months ago. And House Republicans elected Rep. John Boehner as their new majority leader after their old leader, Rep. Tom DeLay, was closely linked to Abramoff. Mr. DeLay is now retiring from Congress. But no substantive legislation or reform of House rules has been enacted, and Republicans have mostly deflected the Abramoff scandal by claiming that the lobbyist's misdeeds involved plenty of Democrats as well.

It's true that the scandal is larger than the GOP. But Republican voter anger isn't limited to lawbreaking, payoffs and outright corruption. It's also about profligate spending and the growing influence of lobbyists. Mr. DeLay didn't become radioactive because he broke the law. Indeed, he likely stayed within the law, even as he steered money to Texas to elect more Republicans and some of his staff members quit to go to work for Abramoff. Mr. DeLay's problem was that he came to power as a reformer and by late last year was pretty comfortable with business as usual inside the Beltway. He didn't catch the shifting political wind against earmarks and other ways members of Congress tap into the federal coffers for their own political gain. He probably sealed his fate when he declared that Republicans had cut all the fat there was to cut from the federal budget--even while Congress was planning a "bridge to nowhere" in Alaska.

Republicans are so clueless on the connection of corruption scandals and rampant spending that after Cunningham resigned, the party establishment rallied around former Rep. Brian Bilbray to run for the open seat. In an open April 11 primary, Ms. Busby outpolled Mr. Bilbray, 43.7% to 15.3%, though he led a crowded field of Republicans and thus forced her into today's run-off."

Get the Story:
Brendan Miniter: Early Warning (The Wall Street Journal Opinion Journal 6/6)

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