Year of the Woman a Bad One for Rosty

Posted March 18, 2005 at 2:45pm

The 1991 House Bank scandal’s repercussions continued well into 1992, and piggy-backing on that was another blemish for Members: corrupt dealings with the House Post Office. But not all news was bad news that year — 1992 also was proclaimed “The Year of the Woman” on Capitol Hill.

Illinois Democrat Carol Moseley Braun paved the way for women with her surprising 38 percent to 35 percent primary defeat of then-Sen. Alan Dixon (D), a Capitol Hill veteran. Braun went on to win in November to become the first black Democrat and first black woman ever elected to the Senate.

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) also had a good year, taking 43 percent of the primary vote, compared to then-Lt. Gov. Leo McCarthy’s 31 percent and then-Rep. Mel Levine’s 22 percent.

On the other hand, the Post Office scandal centered on then-Rep. Dan Rostenkowski (D-Ill.) and his alleged stamp purchases traded for cash.

In September, Joanna O’Rourke, the former House Post Office chief of staff, pleaded guilty to embezzlement charges, and in her plea she indicated that she had illegal dealings with Rostenkowski.

“O’Rourke admitted to having used a special Post Office account to fund the mailing of personal items for a Congressman [Rostenkowski] to the Member’s home district,” Roll Call reported.

Two years later Rostenkowski was indicted on corruption charges and lost a re-election bid. In 1996 he pleaded guilty to mail fraud and served a 17-month prison sentence.

The House Bank scandal continued to claim more retirements among Members, but the most startling fact that year was the number of re-election losses.

The 1992 elections featured record turnover: 24 incumbents were defeated, more than any in general election since 1982.

Also, in the months following then-Speaker Tom Foley’s (D-Wash.) best efforts to put an end to the Bank scandal, Roll Call reported new explosive information.

Four Members “asked [then-Rep. Bob Walker] not to name Members for whom, according to Walker’s allegations, former House Sergeant-at-Arms Jack Russ had covered gambling debts with $25,000 or more in overdrafted checks that had been cashed at the House Bank.”