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How Much does a Republican Cost?

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Allegations of corruption continue to dog Republican candidates in three key congressional races, marring their reelection chances.

According to a story posted earlier this week on The American Prospect's website, beleaguered Sen. George Allen (R-VA) may have improperly accepted stock options from a now defunct technology company known as Xybernaut just days before his 2000 US Senate election victory. He may have also used his new position on behalf of that company.

According to the story, Allen served on the board of the company prior to joining the Senate, but was forced to resign to comply with Senate prohibitions on its members serving on corporate boards.

When it became clear that Allen's victory was assured, the company held an early shareholder's meeting in late October 2000 (usually held in December) and awarded him 50,000 shares in stock options. According to the article, other board members apparently did not receive the same bonus that Allen did at this meeting.

The article cited experts who believe such a move by Xybernaut was unusual, raising the question of why they did it and what they may have expected in return. Stock options aren't simply a reward for past service like a paycheck; they are intended to ensure a continued relationship and common interests.

Meanwhile, reports The American Prospect, the Allen campaign has failed to explain adequately the Senator's relationship with the bankrupt company. Between June 2001 and 2003, Allen filed disclosure reports to the Senate that indicated he continued to hold the Xybernaut stock options.

In December 2001, Allen wrote a letter on behalf of Xybernaut to the US Army.

After being exposed for using racist hate speech at a campaign rally and revelations of his sordid use of such speech and symbols throughout his past, these additional suggestions that Allen may have improperly used his position for financial gain have hurt his reelection bid.

Once considered a front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination in 2008, Allen has fallen several points behind in the polls to former Reagan appointee turned Iraq war critic Jim Webb.

Similarly, corruption charges plague the reelection bid of powerful Senate Republican Conrad Burns of Montana. According to NBC News, a friend of former powerful Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff, recently told a newspaper that Burns staffers accepted thousands of dollars worth of food, trips, and other gifts, in addition to more than $150,000 in cash contributions from Abramoff, who begins serving a 70 month sentence for fraud and bribery in a couple of weeks.

The Abramoff friend countered Sen. Burns's claims to have received only $5,000 from Abramoff. According to NBC, the friend, Monty Warner, says Burns's staff frequently dined at Abramoff's Washington restaurant for free and used Abramoff's skyboxes at local sporting events, improper gifts which alone are valued at several thousand dollars.

Burns's campaign records also show that the Montana Senator took more than $150,000 in contributions from Abramoff.

Abramoff recently confessed to fraud and bribery. He took money from several Indian tribes to help influence members of Congress. As part of the scheme, Abramoff told the tribes to send money to the campaign funds of certain members of Congress, including Burns, and in exchange their interests would be addressed. Soon after receiving the money, Burns helped one of Abramoff's tribal clients secure a $3 million construction grant.

According to a Billings, Montana newspaper, Burns has already paid a criminal defense lawyer as much as $90,000. At least two former Burn's staffers are said to be cooperating with Justice Department investigators in the case.

Some observers believe that if former Montana state legislator Jon Tester, whose slight lead in the polls has seriously concerned Burns supporters, isn't able to win on election day, Sen. Burns first actions in the new Senate session will be to defend his actions before an ethics panel.

In a third case, powerful Republican Rep. Joe Knollenberg (Michigan), who led the way in blocking meaningful ethics and lobbying reform in the wake of the Abramoff scandal, accepted trips to Hawaii from lobbyists and campaign contributions from convicted Republican Rep. Bob Ney (Ohio) and resigned former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay.

DeLay is known to have used his position and the cash he commanded to ensure party members adhered to the leadership's position on key votes such as Social Security privatization, Medicare privatization, and free trade agreements. Knollenberg followed DeLay's voting orders more than 96% percent of the time.

Additionally, after taking $60,000 in campaign contributions from oil and gas companies, Knollenberg voted to provide them with $6 billion in tax breaks and giveaways.

Knollenberg's explanation: "It's done all the time. It's been done for years. I'll let the future decide whether we continue to do this."

Knollenberg's ethical conundrum has allowed his opponent former radio talk show host Nancy Skinner to close some of the enormous funding gap between their two campaigns.
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--Joel Wendland is editor of Political Affairs.
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