In the irony-on-steroids category, guess who was defending his graduate thesis on Congressional ethics Monday? Cover your eyes and guess, then sit down for the answer.
It was Michael Scanlon. Yes, that Michael Scanlon, the one who has pleaded guilty to conspiracy in the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal. His topic, as Scanlon himself confirmed, was an “evaluative history of the House ethics process.”
Scanlon defended his thesis at Johns Hopkins University’s Zanvyl Krieger School of Arts and Sciences in Washington, D.C. Our informant, a House Democratic aide and a fellow student in the advanced government program who also was defending his thesis on Monday evening, still is trying to lift his jaw off the floor.
“It was all I could do not to break into hysterics,” he said.
Our source says Scanlon got up and gave a roughly one-sentence introduction of his thesis before taking questions from the four faculty members and nine other students in the room. He says Scanlon talked about the House ethics committee and argued that the “system now is not broken, but functioning in the same manner it has since its creation.”
Scanlon essentially argued that the House ethics process is “political in nature” and that Members were never expected to do a very good job at policing each other, the source says.
No one in the class, other than our source, seemed to recognize Scanlon. At least none of them asked about Abramoff or referenced any current corruption investigation. Instead the question-and-answer session focused on the case of the late Rep. Adam Clayton Powell (D-N.Y.), who was famously expelled from the House in 1967 because of ethics violations. (Powell won a Supreme Court battle in 1969, which returned him to Congress, though without seniority or back pay.)
Contacted by HOH, Scanlon said his thesis on House ethics did, indeed, focus on the Powell case, which he called “a fascinating situation.” Asked why he was now getting his master’s degree at such a precarious moment in his life (precarious being an understatement), he said he actually finished classes at Hopkins six years ago but never got around to arguing his thesis.
“It was just a loose end in my life,” he said.
At least he’s doing it now. Scanlon (who was freed on $5 million bond) faces up to five years in prison and has agreed to pay $19.7 million in restitution to the tribes he defrauded while he continues to cooperate with investigators.
The good news is: He passed his thesis review! Scanlon says he’s just waiting for his diploma, while awaiting sentencing.
Speaking of Ethics ... That was a far cry from a ringing endorsement that House Majority Leader John Boehner (R) gave Tuesday to a home-state colleague, embattled Rep. Bob Ney (R-Ohio).
A reporter asked the Majority Leader at his off-camera weekly briefing: “Can you tell us how you think Mr. Ney is doing in his campaign and how you think he will do in the general election in November?”
“I don’t know,” Boehner replied.
“You are a fellow Ohioan. Do you have any sense?” the reporter implored.
“I don’t know,” Boehner said, ending the exchange.
At least it wasn’t as bad as what another fellow Ohioan, Rep. Deborah Pryce (R), who also faces a potentially tough re-election, said recently about Ney.
Seeking to distance herself from her scandal, Pryce told The Associated Press, “I’m not Jack Abramoff. I don’t know Jack Abramoff. I’m not Bob Ney. I’m not Tom DeLay.”
Bet things aren’t real cozy right now between Pryce and Ney, what do y’all think?
Making a Splash. Those who know dog language will want to tune in Friday to ABC’s “Good Morning America” interview of Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and his dog Splash, “author” of the children’s book “My Senator and Me: A Dog’s-Eye View of Washington, D.C.”
Later in the morning Friday, Splash and his Senator are scheduled to join Uncle Teddy’s niece, one-time first daughter Caroline Kennedy, for a reading of the book to elementary students in Manhattan.
Splash’s big in-studio debut interview on national television comes as his mentor and master is on a whirlwind book tour for his own political memoir, “America Back on Track.”
Kennedy has been winding across the nation’s big cities and touched down just north of Chinatown Monday evening, on the rooftop terrace of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers building on Seventh Street Northwest.
A few hundred of the Senator’s closest friends, colleagues, media types, lobbyists, staffers and former staffers were on hand, forming a long line to get books signed. So many folks showed up that they ran out of books by 7:30 p.m. His colleagues on hand included Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), who introduced Kennedy, and Sens. Robert Byrd (D-W. Va.), Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) and Paul Sarbanes (D-Md.), as well as Rep. David Obey (D-Wis.). The event was hosted by IBEW, AFL-CIO President John Sweeney, Leadership Conference on Civil Rights chief Wade Henderson and Clinton White House Chief of Staff John Podesta.
No, Splash wasn’t on hand for the Monday book party. And sources couldn’t confirm whether he was home prepping for the big interview with GMA. But Stephanie Cutter, a longtime aide to Kennedy who recently formed the Cutter Media Group, said, “Splash is indeed making his national debut on ‘Good Morning America.’ He’s all groomed and ready to go, but he’s still trying to find the perfect sound bite.”
John Bresnahan and Paul Kane contributed to this report.
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