Election Ethics Scorecard: Did Virtue and Trustworthiness Prevail? Was Dishonesty and Corruption Punished?


There is no way that it could have, really. In many races, every major candidate was corrupt, dishonest, or otherwise untrustworthy for one reason or another: examples include the Florida Senate race among Marco Rubio, who used campaign funds as his personal petty cash supply; Charlie Crist, who exhibited the integrity of Arlen Specter, and Kendrick Meek, who has ethics problems of his own ,the horrible Illinois Senate race, with serial liar Mark Kirk opposing  ethically-challenged banker Alexi Giannoulias, and the Connecticut Senate race, with fake Vietnam vet Richard Blumenthal opposing Linda McMahon, CEO of a corporation in the business of being unethical.  Combine that with the fact that voters told pollsters that economic recovery was more important to them than than electing an honest candidate—an illogical and self-defeating attitude if there ever was one: how can you trust womeone to fix the economy if you think they may be lying to you?  Still, some candidates did sink their chances with the voters by exposing their unethical sides, and ethics was clearly a factor in many victories and losses. Maybe 2010 can start a trend.

Here is how the night went for candidates flagged by Ethics Alarm here and here, as well as in other posts) as being unworthy:

  • Alvin Greene (D., U.S. Senate, S.C.) lost, as he should have. The lingering question  involves the 358,000 South Carolinians who voted for Greene, who is unqualified, unemployed, inarticulate, and awaiting trial: could there be any way a vote for such a man could be responsible? I can think of one: Knowing that he had no chance of being elected, many voters gave their vote to Greene to send a message to Sen. Jim DeMint that said, “We dislike you and your views even more than you thought.”
  • Christine O’Donnell (GOP, U.S. Senate, Delaware), the other embarassingly unqualified Senate candidate, also lost.
  • Richard Blumenthal (D., U.S. Senate, Connecticut) won his race. As I have written before, he shouldn’t even had been in it. The Democrats willingly offered a candidate who fabricated his war record, and they should be ashamed of themselves.
  • Rep. Joe Wilson (R., House, S.C.) of “You lie!” infamy was re-elected, as expected. I would like to see the day when there are real electoral consequences for singular bad behavior like Wilson’s. It is not here yet…
  • Or is it? In a race that may end up in a recount, Rep. Bob Etheridge (D., House, NC.) the Congressional thug who roughed up a smaller student with a question and a cell phone video camera, looks like the loser, and the disgraceful incident may be why. Ethics accolades for North Carolina’s Second Congressional District!
  • More good ethics news: Rep. Alan Grayson, (D,. House, Fla.) lost. The most uncivil member of Congress ran one of the dirtiest campaigns, and his constituents decided to take a shower.
  • Mark Kirk, (R., House, Ill.) won, running against a possible crook, became the second serial liar, along with Blumenthal, to win a Senate seat. Would voters have sent him to the Senate if he had respectable competition?  I hope not.
  • Rep. Charles Rangel, (D.,House, NY.) won, of course, despite his abundant ethical and legal misdeeds. It would have
  • Gov. Charlie Crist, (I., U.S. Senate, Fla.), a politician without principles who custom tailored his opinions to what would win the most votes, lost…but to Marco Rubio, who won after he had showed that he couldn’t be trusted with a credit card. I can’t blame the Florida voters for this; they just had no way to vote for ethics.
  • Dallas County voters returned Eddie Bernice Johnson, (D., House, Tx.) to Congress, which is really incomprehensible for a Congresswoman who intentionally cheated her own constituents out scholarship money so she could give it to her own grandchildren. but Rep. Sanford Bishop (D., House, GA.) lost, and he had done essentially the same thing. His was a close a close race, so his betrayal of his constituents may well have been the deciding factor. The lesson may be that you can only afford to be involved in an outrageous conflict of interest when you have an incurably Democratic constituency.  Or,perhaps, only if you are a grandmother.
  • The Nazi SS admiring Tea Partier, Rich Iott (R., House, Ohio), lost his Congressional race in a wipeout. This is a very good sign: it means that, at least in Ohio, dressing up as a Nazi for fun is still looked upon as sign of irreseponsible judgment, and trying to keep it secret, as Iott did, may be good judgment but is a sign that candidate isn’t trustworthy.
  • Rep Roy Blunt (R, U.S. Senate, Missouri) won as did Virginia’s most unethical Congressman (and mine), Jim Moran (D..) Rep. John Conyers (D., House, Mich.) also won, as expected. Being arrogant, corrupt and generally uninterested in ethics hurts first-timers a lot more than veterans of Congress like these men. Why voters think that it’s better to be experienced and unethical, I have no idea.
  • Sharon Angle (R., U.S. Senate, Nev.), the strange, revolution-talking Tea Party candidate, ran a dirty campaign and managed to lose to Harry Reid, whom everyone seems to be thoroughly sick of.  She deserved the loss, especially after having her fingerprints on a  Republican “Don’t  Vote!” campaign aimed at keeping Hispanic-Americans home on November 2.
  • Carl Paladino (R., Governor, NY.) also lost, having done his best to send signals to the bullies and the bigots of the New York that it was open season on gays.
  • Joe Miller (R., U.S. Senate, Alaska ) or Sen. Lisa Murchowski (I., U.S.Senate, Alaska) have to win in Alaska; they both disgraced themselves. Miller tried to hide his past dishonesty; Murchowski never should have been running, and certainly shouldn’t have run an add that made it seem like Ted Stevens, who is dead, endorsed her in the race.  Alaska doesn’t elect Democrats these days: as in Illinois, Connecticut and Florida, voters had to vote for someone unethical, or not vote.
  • Rep. Laura Richardson ( D., House, Cal.) won, despite her abysmal record of questionable financial transactions. But California ethics are to ethics like Barry Bonds’ career homerun record is to Hank Aaron’s.
  • Jack Conway (D., Senate, Ken.) lost to Rand Paul, and many think it was the blatant unfairness of his attack “Aqua Buddha” ad that made the difference. As for Paul he is an interesting case of when integrity can be a liability. He appears to be capable of sticking to his ideology even when it makes no sense or will result in unnecessary harm. Can integrity, and ethical value, be unethical? If so, Paul may be the one who can show how it’s done.

Eleven politicians designated by Ethics Alarms as too unethical to hold office lost their races, while ten such politicians won despite their obvious untrustworthiness. In  four of those races, however, an unethical candidate was going to win no matter what happened.

Hmmmm. It is clear that voters don’t make their choices based on character and values—except when they do. Maybe, just maybe, 2010 represented progress in elevating ethics as a priority for national office.

We shall see.


Note: It had little to do with ethics, but Kristal Ball, the Virginia House candidate unsettled by the release of old Christmas party photos showing her sucking on a dildo fastened to her husband’s nose (he was dressed as a reindeer at the time), lost. Just thought you’d like to know.

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