News & Politics

Book ‘Em! And No More Fancy Dinners!

Punishments for Capitol offenders that fit the deed.

What with all the arrests, subpoenas, and raids around Capitol Hill, it’s getting hard to tell whether you’re watching C-Span or America’s Most Wanted.

The last two years have seen ten members of Congress scuffle with the law. While many have faced real jail time, here are suggestions for a more appropriate sentence:

Ted Stevens, Republican from Alaska.

Busted: The blustery Stevens, known for winning lots of federal largesse for his home state during his almost 40 years in the Senate, is the subject of FBI and IRS investigations into possible bribery and corruption.

Fitting sentence: Stevens must attend anger-management sessions, where part of therapy is learning how not to snarl at staff and reporters.

Outrage factor: 3.5

Cynthia McKinney, Democrat from Georgia.

McKinney’s run-in with the law was a literal one: A Capitol Police officer accused McKinney of punching him in the chest in 2006 after confronting her for blowing through a Hill security checkpoint.

Fitting sentence: McKinney has to hand-deliver the Capitol’s hard-working men and women in blue their morning doughnuts.

Outrage factor: 1.5

Patrick Kennedy, Democrat from Rhode Island.

Busted: In May 2006, a disoriented Kennedy crashed his Mustang convertible into a Capitol Police barricade in the wee hours of the morning, telling the police he was “late for a vote.” Kennedy made a deal in which he pleaded guilty to driving under the influence of prescription drugs.

Fitting sentence: He’s already had to give up his swanky wheels in favor of a bike.

Outrage factor: 1

Randy “Duke” Cunningham, Republican from California.

Busted: Defense contractors furnished the Dukester with a lavish lifestyle. His digs are less posh in the federal prison where the former Navy pilot is serving an eight-year sentence for fraud, bribery, and tax evasion.

Fitting sentence: The luxury-loving Cunningham has to live a lowbrow lifestyle: out with antiques, in with Ikea; goodbye Capital Grille, hello Denny’s.

Outrage factor: 5

Tom DeLay, Republican from Texas.

Busted: The former House majority leader, known as “the Hammer” for the tactics he used to keep his party in line, is facing money-laundering charges that forced him to resign his seat in 2006.

Fitting sentence: Famous for how he wielded power, DeLay is forced to return to Congress as a freshman in the minority party.

Outrage factor: 2

Bob Ney, Republican from Ohio.

Busted: The guy who helped coin the phrase “freedom fries” isn’t free himself: After getting fingered by fallen lobbyist Jack Abramoff, he’s serving 30 months in federal prison for bribery and fraud.

Fitting sentence: Ney is exiled to France, where no waiter serves him frites at temperatures higher than lukewarm.

Outrage factor: 4

William Jefferson, Democrat from Louisiana.

Busted: A 2005 FBI raid turned up $90,000 stashed in the congressman’s freezer, cash allegedly from a bribery deal in which the congressman promised to help a tech company get African contracts.

Fitting sentence: Despite hailing from the culinary paradise of New Orleans, Jefferson can eat nothing but freezer-burned TV dinners.

Outrage factor: 4

Bob Filner, Democrat from California.

Busted: The chair of the House Veterans Affairs Committee was charged with assault and battery after allegedly pushing a Dulles Airport worker in an incident involving the congressman’s delayed luggage.

Fitting sentence: Permanent demotion to coach-class seats, where the in-flight movie always stars Ben Stiller.

Outrage factor: 1.5

Larry Craig, Republican from Idaho.

Busted: In June, an undercover officer in the Minneapolis airport nabbed Senator Craig in a sting cracking down on gay sex in the public restrooms. Craig pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct and paid a fine but flip-flopped once the story broke. He tried but failed to have the guilty plea thrown out.

Fitting sentence: The conservative Republican should appreciate the taxpayer savings that come from having him take on permanent toilet-scrubbing duties in the Capitol’s restrooms.

Outrage factor: 3

Mark Foley, Republican from Florida.

Busted: Sexually explicit instant messages that Foley sent to an underage male congressional page surfaced, touching off a scandal and launching probes by the FBI, Florida law enforcement, and the House ethics committee. Foley resigned and checked into rehab for alcohol abuse.

Fitting sentence: No more Internet access for Foley—if he wants to send messages, he has to do it with pen and paper.

Outrage factor: 2


This article originally appeared in the November 2007 issue of Washingtonian magazine.