Friday, December 1, 2023



State of the Union, February 2023. Photo by Getty Images.

So they managed to expel George Santos. For the handicappers, the special election to fill out his term will be held sometime in February, with the candidates chosen by party leaderships; the main contenders on the Democratic side will be furious centrist Tom Suozzi (seeking to recapture the seat he abandoned last year in a stupid furious-centrist run for the New York governorship, which is what got Santos elected in the first place) and Anna Kaplan, an Iranian-Jewish refugee who's served as a "social-liberal" state senator (after losing to Suozzi in the 2016 primary for the House seat). I imagine either Democrat has a pretty good chance of winning; the district has a lot of Republicans, but not so many doctrinaire ones, and they're really angry at the Republican party for the embarrassment of Santos.

The one point I really want to make about the expulsion itself, because I don't thing anybody else is making it, is addressed to Santos's (and Speaker Mike Johnson's) assertion that expelling a Congressman who has merely been charged, not convicted, with the seven counts he was indicted for last May and the 23 more in the superseding indictment in October, is an unprecedented and therefore bad and dangerous thing to do. That's not exactly correct.

It's true that all of the five previously expelled House members (together with 15 senators) lost their seats either under the 14th Amendment Section 3 stipulation that they had participated in rebellion (the Civil War) or for committing other crimes, bribery for Michael Myers (D-PA) in 1980 and bribery, racketeering, and tax evasion for James Traficant (D-OH) in 2002. 

However, some House members suspected of crimes of which they had not (yet) been convicted, 35 by my count between 1831 and 2021, couldn't be expelled because they had already resigned. They certainly could have been expelled, but they chose to save themselves and others the trouble. That is what is often known as "doing the right thing".

  • Robert Potter (D-NC), 1831, after castrating two men he accused of having affairs with his wife;
  • Orsamus B. Mattson (R-NY), 1857, accepting payments to vote for a Minnesota land bill; (ironically, after angering the House when he claimed the majority of members were "purchasable");
  • James F. Simmons (R-RI), 1862, corruption;
  • Lovell Harrison Rousseau  (R-KY), 1866, after assaulting Rep. Josiah Bushnell Grinnell with an iron-handled cane (later won reelection);
  • John T. Deweese (R-NC), 1870, taking a bribe for a West Point nomination;
  • Benjamin Franklin Whittemore (R-SC), 1870, same thing except the Naval Academy;
  • James G. Blaine (R-ME), 1876, the "continental liar from the state of Maine", selling worthless Union Pacific Railway bonds for $64,000 (later became senator, secretary of state, and presidential candidate);
  • J. Parnell Thomas (R-NJ), 1950, hired his secretary's niece and maid as clerks and had them turn over their salaries for his personal use;
  • Wayne L. Hays (D-OH), 1976, gave a no-show job and promotion to his mistress, Elizabeth Ray;
  • Ron Taylor (D-NC), 1982, after bribery and a conspiracy to burn down the tobacco warehouses of his political rival, J.J. Harrington;
  • Daniel Flood (D-PA), 1980, bribery;
  • Tony Coelho (D-CA), 1989, thought to have made $6000 off an unethical "junk bond" deal, though never charged with anything;
  • Speaker Jim Wright (D-TX), 1989, improperly receiving $145,000 worth of gifts in the guise of a book deal (one of his chief persecutors was Rep. Newt Gingrich, see below);
  •  Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA), 1999, who had made a book deal like Wright's himself, for $105,000, along with many other ethical violations (among others, while he was leading the impeachment of President Bill Clinton for hiding extramarital blow jobs received from a much younger woman, Gingrich too was getting extramarital head from a much younger woman, who was later appointed ambassador to the Vatican by President Donald Trump), but what he really resigned over was the rage of fellow Republicans over the failure of his impeachment strategy in the 1998 elections, which lost the party five House seats;
  • Bob Livingston (R-LA), 1999, another hypocritical Clinton persecutor who turned out to be an adulterer himself;
  • Bill Janklow (R-SD), 2003, killing a motorcyclist after running a stopsign;
  • Mark Foley (R-FL), 2006, sending explicit messages to congressional pages;
  • Tom DeLay (R-TX), 2006, laundering corporate contributions;
  • J. Nathan Deal (R-GA), 2010, financial improprieties and pressuring state officials to benefit his family's auto business;
  • Mark Souder (R-IN), 2010, an advocate of sexual abstinence, after the discovery of his adulterous affair with a female staffer;
  • Anthony Weiner (D-NY), 2011, sexting;
  • David Wu (D-OR), 2011, accused of "unwanted sexual encounter";
  • Chris Lee (R-NY), 2011, soliciting a woman on Craigslist with a shirtless photo of himself;
  • Thaddeus McCotter (R-MI), 2012, getting staffs to forge signatures on his nomination petitions;
  • Trey Radel (R-FL), 2013, busted for cocaine;
  • Aaron Schock (R-IL), 2015, using campaign funds and taxpayer funds for all kinds of questionable purposes, including redecorating his Capitol office to resemble the set of Downton Abbey;
  • Trent Franks (R-AZ), 2017, investigated for asking women staffers to serve as surrogate mothers for him, with the suggestion that he hoped to impregnate them personally;
  • Timothy Murphy (R-PA), 2017, married abortion opponent nabbed for asking his mistress to get an abortion;
  • John Conyers (D-IL), 2017, paying $27,000 to a staffer who accused him of sexual assault; 
  • Blake Farenthold (R-TX), 2018, using public funds to settle a sexual harassment suit;
  • Pat Meehan (R-PA), 2018, also using public funds to settle a sexual harassment claim;
  • Katie Hill (D-CA), 2019, improper relationships with subordinates;
  • Chris Collins (R-NY), 2019, insider trading, securities fraud, lying to FBI;
  • Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE), 2021, lying to FBI about campaign contributions from a Nigerian billionaire; and
  • Tom Reed (R-NY), 2021, sexual harassment of a lobbyist in a bar.
Not that any other member ever refused to resign before Santos, there have been lots of those, including a substantial number who refused to resign even after their convictions, such as Ernest K. Bramblett (R-CA)  after his February 1954 conviction for payroll fraud (he paid four staffers who did no work but turned their salaries over to him for his personal use); Thomas J. Lane (D-MA), who further got reelected three times after a 1956 conviction for tax evasion; John Dowdy (D-TX), who kept his seat after a 1972 conviction for bribery; and many more.

But were any of them begged to go away by their closest colleagues, as Santos has been? Even Gingrich eventually couldn't live with the hatred of the entire Hill and resigned.

Santos knows he's going to get convicted. The evidence we've been allowed to read is overwhelming, and accomplices have already taken guilty pleas. The stuff he's charged with is stuff that you couldn't be charged with without a boatload of paper evidence that can only be interpreted one way:

Prosecutors said in a news release that the scheme included falsely claiming that relatives of Santos and his then-campaign treasurer, Nancy Marks, had donated big bucks to his campaign to make it appear that he was raising more money than he actually was in order to qualify for assistance from the national party.

"To create the public appearance that his campaign had met that financial benchmark" for additional funds from the Republican Party "and was otherwise financially viable, Santos and Marks agreed to falsely report to the FEC that at least 10 family members of Santos and Marks had made significant financial contributions to the campaign when Santos and Marks both knew that these individuals had neither made the reported contributions nor given authorization for their personal information to be included in such false public reports."...

He is also alleged to have been involved in a credit card scheme in which the campaign would charge contributors’ credit cards repeatedly and above FEC individual contribution limits.

“For example, in December 2021, one contributor (the 'Contributor') texted Santos and others to make a contribution to his campaign, providing billing information for two credit cards,” prosecutors said.

“In the days after he received the billing information, Santos used the credit card information to make numerous contributions to his campaign and affiliated political committees in amounts exceeding applicable contribution limits, without the Contributor’s knowledge or authorization,” they said.

On another occasion, he allegedly “charged $12,000 to the Contributor’s credit card, ultimately transferring the vast majority of that money into his personal bank account.”

But he just couldn't stop. This has been Trumpy shamelessness raised—or should I say lowered?—to an. incredible new pitch.

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