From the House to the Big House

Since President Clinton's election in 1992, a season can't change without yet another member of his administration getting his or her own personal independent counsel. Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt is still in hot water, as Janet Reno extends the probe into his dealings with a Wisconsin Indian casino; former Agriculture Secretary Mike Espy was indicted on 39 counts for his alleged appetite for free lunches and other gifts; former HUD Secretary Henry Cisneros faces charges that he took hush money; and former Energy Secretary Hazel O'Leary is in trouble for allegedly demanding a $25,000 charitable contribution from Johnny Chung. Not to mention the never-ending array of accusations against Vice President Gore and Clinton himself.

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The administration's chief critics? Naturally, its neighbors at the end of Pennsylvania Avenue—Republicans and Democrats alike. But when it comes to the Big House, Congress has much more experience than the White House:

  • Rep. Albert Bustamante (D-Texas) was convicted in 1993 on racketeering and bribery charges for, among other deeds, using his office to collect gratuities from a company trying to win an Air Force food contract. He was sentenced to 54 months.

  • Rep. Walter Fauntroy (D-Washington, D.C.), the nonvoting delegate from D.C., was charged with lying on a financial disclosure form about a charitable contribution. He pleaded guilty in 1995 to the felony and was sentenced to probation.

  • Rep. Carroll Hubbard Jr. (D-Ky.) pleaded guilty in 1994 to conspiring to defraud the Federal Elections Commission and to the theft of government property. Hubbard received a three-year sentence.

  • Rep. Jay Kim (R-Calif.) pleaded guilty in 1997 to raising more than $230,000 in illegal campaign contributions. He has not yet been sentenced, but he promises to run for office in 1998.

  • Rep. Joseph Kolter (D-Pa.) pleaded guilty in May 1996 to pocketing $9,300 from the House post office. The ailing Kolter was sentenced to six months in a Minnesota federal medical center.

  • Rep. Donald "Buz" Lukens (R-Ohio) was sentenced in 1996 to 30 months in prison for conspiracy and accepting bribes while in office. Lukens had already been bounced at the ballot box in 1990, after his 1989 conviction for having sex with a 16-year-old.

  • Rep. Nicholas Mavroules (D-Mass.) got 15 months in a minimum-security prison in 1993 after pleading guilty to charges of tax fraud and accepting gratuities while in office.

  • Rep. Mary Rose Oakar (D-Ohio) pleaded guilty in 1997 to two misdemeanors for funneling $16,000 through fake donors. She faces up to two years in prison.

  • Rep. Carl Perkins Jr. (D-Ky.) pleaded guilty to conspiring to defraud the FEC, writing illegal checks, and filing false personal finance disclosure statements. He was sentenced in 1995 to 21 months.

  • Rep. Mel Reynolds (D-Ill.) ran unopposed in 1994, despite (eventually proven) charges of criminal sexual assault and child pornography. In 1995, he got a five-year sentence. In 1997, he was convicted of lying on loan and campaign finance statements and got 78 more months.

  • Rep. Dan Rostenkowski (D-Ill.) was indicted in 1994 on 17 felony charges, including the embezzlement of $695,000 in taxpayer and campaign funds. The longtime House Ways and Means chairman plea-bargained his way down to two counts of mail fraud and served 17 months in a Wisconsin minimum-security prison.

  • Rep. Larry Smith (D-Fla.) was sentenced in 1993 to three months in federal prison for income tax evasion.

  • Rep. Walter Tucker III (D-Calif.) won in 1994 despite a pending indictment that he took bribes while mayor of Compton. In 1996, he was sentenced to 27 months in prison for extortion and tax evasion.