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."
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