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VIDEO: Corrupt politicians, lobbyists try to escape voters' wrath

Published: Monday August 28, 2006

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Legislators under Federal investigation for illegal schemes involving lobbyists may be re-elected without facing serious competition, reports Maria Hinojosa of PBS Now.

Congressman Jerry Lewis (R-CA), has been under federal scrutiny but is expected to easily win the re-election by a landslide in his district. A local DNC official tells PBS that Lewis' campaign has accumulated over $2.5 million, while his Democratic opponent struggles to raise any funds, and the National DNC has not provided cash or other resources.

Lewis is Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee and as such is one of the most powerful members of The House. He stands accused of handing out money as earmarks, and receiving campaign contributions and other favors in return.

Lobbyist Bill Lowry is being investigated for his ties to Lewis and an alleged illegal "earmarks for donations" scheme. Bill Lowry and his clients have donated over $500,000 during the past 6 years.

"In some parts of the country there are early signs of a backlash against the influence of special interest.", says Hinojosa. Ralph Reed recently lost his bid for Lt Governor in Georgia due to his links to Jack Abramoff. Abramoff has been at the center of a Justice Department investigation that has lead to several indictments.

Representative Bob Ney (R-OH) is also facing legal jeopardy due to ties to the disgraced Abramoff. Ney recently dropped out of the race. Hinojosa reports that the Ney race is considered to be a "bellweather of what may happen in elections across the country this Fall."

"People who are basically corrupt are as good as traitors," Rep. Chris Shays (R-CT) tells PBS. "People think money trumps bad press. When you go to the Republican or Democratic conference, you'll hear leaders say, 'the public really doesn't care about that.' Tell that to Ralph Reed."

Democratic officials in Rep. Lewis' district tell NOW that their campaign is on "life support". Democrat Patrick Kahler says, "Talking to my neighbors, they don't see this as a problem, and it doesn't effect their lives, so why should they care? You know, I think that's what Congressman Lewis is realizing is what's happening--he's hoping he can get away with it. I guess, unless he's in a courtroom or behind bars, nobody is going to stand-up to Lewis."