WASHINGTON – A New York congressman resigns amid accusations he sexually harassed his male employees during tickle fights.
Another top Democrat, also a New Yorker, steps down from a powerful congressional position after it’s revealed he accepted trips to the Caribbean from a private corporation.
And in yet another black eye for the state of New York, Gov. David Paterson continues to embarrass his fellow Democrats, both stateside and beyond, with a domestic violence scandal that has claimed four of his high-level officials.
By comparison, Canada’s biggest ongoing political controversy – the Afghan detainee issue and allegations the federal Tories have tried to cover up the torture of Canadian-captured prisoners – seems like a picnic in the park.
With the White House attempting to push President Barack Obama’s health-care overhaul through Congress, a bumper crop of political scandals has exacerbated that political headache into a pounding migraine.
In terms of salacious detail, Eric Massa’s troubles rival those of a California Republican senator recently forced out of the closet. Massa, a freshman Democratic congressman from western New York, admitted this weekthat indeed, he groped his male staff – but his actions were never sexual.
The 50-year-old former Navy commander, who resigned Monday in the wake of stunning allegations from his onetime legislative director, told Fox News in an interview that he didn’t think rough-housing with other men was unusual.
“Not only did I grope him, I tickled him until he couldn’t breathe and then four guys jumped on top of me,” he said. “It was my 50th birthday. It was, ‘Kill the old guy.’ You can take anything out of context.”
He’s also blamed his troubles on the White House, saying administration officials plotted to force him out of office because he refused to support their health-care overhaul. Massa has alleged that White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel once bullied him while they were showering at the congressional gym.
“Not only did it happen, I’ll never forget it,” he said. “Rahm Emanuel hates me. He doesn’t like me. I get it.”
His accusations caused one of his congressional colleagues, Anthony Weiner, to quip on Wednesday that his fellow New York Democrat is “one taco short of a happy meal.”
Of Massa’s alleged quarrel with Emanuel as they showered, Weiner added: “I have very few hard and fast rules. One of them is not to have sword fights in the morning with Rahm Emanuel.”
Massa’s been joined in infamy by yet another congressman: Charles Rangel, the top Democrat responsible for tax laws in Congress who was forced to relinquish the chairmanship of the House of Representatives’s ways and means committee. A House committee has ruled that Rangel’s actions violate the chamber’s ethics rules.
The allegations against the representative from New York City’s Harlem neighborhood were particularly embarrassing to the White House; on the same day the ethics committee made its ruling, Rangel was attending a high-profile meeting with Obama and lawmakers from both parties at a health-care summit.
And yet there’s arguably few recent scandals that rival the sheer sordidness of the one stalking Roy Ashburn, a California senator from the conservative community of Bakersfield who admitted Monday that he’s gay.
Ashburn was arrested on drunk driving charges behind the wheel of his state car after reportedly attending the Miss Gay Latina Sacramento pageant at a gay club in the city, a bit of scintillating detail that’s no doubt why his name was one of the most searched terms on Google last week.
The divorced father of four has frequently voted against gay rights legislation in California.
And yet, there was this confession earlier this week to a California radio station: “I am gay. Those are the words that have been so difficult for me for so long. But I am gay. But it is something that is personal and … I felt with my heart that being gay didn’t affect – wouldn’t affect – how I did my job.”
Nonetheless, in terms of national political implications, it’s not California, but the state of New York that’s earned its place in the political Hall of Shame in recent weeks.
In addition to Rangel’s and Massa’s troubles, Gov. David Paterson has become involved in a number of scandals encompassing corruption, obstruction of justice and perjury.
Paterson has been facing calls for his resignation ever since news emerged that one of his aides was involved in a domestic violence incident and that state police later pressured the alleged female victim to keep her mouth shut. Four Paterson officials have resigned in the wake of the revelations.
Paterson himself succeeded Eliot Spitzer, who resigned when his involvement in a prostitution ring was revealed.
“It’s just awful,” former governor George Pataki told the Wall Street Journal. “It makes me feel terrible for the state and the people of New York.”