Convicted House members who wouldn’t go quietly

House Republican leaders mI want Rep. Jeff Fortenberry to resign after Nebraska lawmaker convicted of three counts of lying to FBI about 2016 foreign campaign contribution, but under House rules , he does not have to resign.

If Fortenberry, first elected to his 1st Congressional District seat in 2004, chooses to stay in office while appealing his beliefs, he won’t be the first to try to hold on. For the past quarter century and counting, doomed members of the House from both parties have attempted to resist, though all have eventually bowed to pressure, usually from their own party leaders. Here are the highlights, or more specifically, the low points.

— Representative Duncan D. Hunter. On Dec. 3, 2019, the California Republican pleaded guilty to embezzlement of campaign funds, including $1,302 in charges for video games and $600 to pay a family rabbit to travel by plane. Federal prosecutors had also filed a court case alleging Hunter used his campaign funds for extramarital affairs with five women, including three lobbyists, a congressional aide and one of his staffers.

On Dec. 6, Hunter announced he would step down after vacancies from the conservative San Diego-area House seat he first won in 2008. But while waiting until January to step down, Hunter has received more than $10,000 in monthly salary that he would otherwise have had to give up.

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— Representing Michael Grimm. The New York Republican on December 23, 2014 pleaded guilty to a tax evasion charge. Grimm admitted to underreporting the revenue of a small health food restaurant in Manhattan called Healthalicious by more than $900,000 over a four-year period. Grimm also admitted to filing false tax returns based on this underreported income.

After Grimm’s guilty plea, he admitted to making mistakes but refused to resign. Grimm changed his mind a week later when reports surfaced that he was under heavy pressure to step down from Republican House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio. Grimm conceded the point and resigned from the House on January 5, 2015, when the new session of Congress opened.

— Representative Trey Radel. The first-term Republican from Florida on November 20, 2013, pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count of possession of cocaine and was sentenced to one year of supervised probation. But Radel tried to stay in Congress. Radel took a self-imposed leave to attend rehab and claimed he would donate his salary from that period to charity.

But Boehner and his House Republican leadership team weren’t too happy to see Radel stay. Florida GOP Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Republican Party released statements calling for Radel’s departure. Radel finally left Congress on January 27, 2014.

— Representative William Jefferson. The Louisiana Democrat had been removed from office by the time he was found guilty on November 13, 2009, of 11 corruption charges. But the longtime New Orleans politician, a Harvard Law School graduate, had tried hard to keep his job.

Jefferson was charged in August 2005 after the FBI seized $90,000 in cash from his home freezer — what tabloid headlines called the epitome of the phrase “hard, cold cash.” Jefferson won re-election in his heavily Democratic district in 2006. But facing mounting legal challenges, Jefferson lost in 2008 to Republican rival Joseph Cao.

— Representative Bob Ney. On October 13, 2006, the Ohio Republican pleaded guilty to conspiracy and misrepresentation stemming from his dealings with disgraced and imprisoned lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Ney admitted accepting foreign trips and rigged gambling winnings in return for legislative favors on Abramoff’s behalf.

But Ney tried to stay on as long as he could. Ney’s lawyer said at the time that the 12-year-old House member would resign sometime before his January 19, 2007 sentencing, but not immediately. House Republicans were eager to see the federal convict go, and Democrats made his stubbornness an issue in their successful 2006 bid to win a House majority. Several other Republican lawmakers in recent years had been accused of corruption, and Ney now served as a reminder of their treachery.

Boehner, then the House Majority Leader, tried to pressure his fellow Ohio national to leave.

“He betrayed his oath of office and breached the trust of those he represented in the House. There is no place for him in this Congress,” Boehner said in a statement with other Republicans. from the room. Ney, threatened with expulsion in the final days of the House Republican majority, resigned on November 3, 2006.

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— Representative Mel Reynolds. On August 22, 1995, the Illinois Democrat was convicted in the Cook County Circuit Court of 12 counts of felony sexual assault, sexual abuse, obstruction of justice and solicitation of child pornography. Reynolds, a Rhodes Scholar and Harvard Law School graduate, did not resign immediately. Within a week, members of the House Democratic leadership were openly calling for his resignation.

But with his allies in Congress gone, Reynolds announced on September 2 that he would step down on October 1. Reynolds made the announcement during an appearance with his wife, Marisol, on CNN. Larry King Live. While Reynolds quickly left Congress, remaining throughout the month, like Hunter more than 24 years later, he secured himself a fresh House paycheck.


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Raymond I. Langston