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CNN Live Event/Special
Encore Presentation: Broken Government: The Do-Nothing Congress
Aired October 29, 2006 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ED HENRY, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): About 1,500 miles separate Washington, D.C., and Colorado Springs, a distance Republican Congressman Joel Hefley has been crossing twice a week for nearly 20 years.
REP. JOEL HEFLEY (R), COLORADO: Stand up there and let me look at you.
HENRY: It's a part of the job he has never really gotten used to. And it's easy to understand why.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NEWT GINGRICH, SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: The House will be in order, and the prayer will be offered by the chaplain.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HENRY: The 1994 Republican revolutionaries encouraged lawmakers to leave their families back home, and not be seduced by the corrosive culture of Washington.
Today, most lawmakers can't seem to get out of town fast enough. This year, they will work less than any time since 1948, when Harry Truman famously blasted a do-nothing, good-for-nothing Congress.
(on camera): The ugly little secret is that today's Congress is no longer in the business of governing. In fact, it's hardly even in business at all. It may shock you to learn that Congress only works about two days a week.
I'm Ed Henry. And I covered Congress for more than a decade.
It's never been worse than it is right now. In the next hour, we're going to show you what members of Congress are really doing with their time on your dime, and how principled politicians, like Joel Hefley, just can't take it anymore.
TOM DASCHLE (D), FORMER U.S. SENATOR: Senator Lott and I used to joke that, if we really wanted everybody here for every important vote, the only time we could actually schedule it was Wednesday afternoon.
HENRY (voice-over): Congress has become the Tuesday-through- Thursday club, with lawmakers enjoying a work schedule most Americans can only dream of, pulling in $165,000 for what has essentially become a part-time job.
SEN. TRENT LOTT (R), MISSISSIPPI: You're looking good, girl. Keep those arms moving, now.
HENRY: Former Majority Leader Trent Lott recalls senators routinely lining up in front of his office, begging for their four-day weekends.
LOTT: Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. They would just -- oh, please, let me get out of here on Thursday night. I would rather stay until midnight on Thursday, so I can catch the 7:30 flight out. Or, please, don't have votes after about 7:30, so, I can catch that.
And some of them would get pretty aggressive about it.
HENRY: A recent "New York Times" poll found most Americans can't name a single major piece of legislation that made its way through this Congress. Social Security reform? Didn't happen. Tougher immigration laws? Nope. Tighter ethics standards? Not a chance.
In the 1960s and '70s, Congress met an average of 161 days a year. In the '80s and '90s, that number dropped to 139 days. This year, Congress will probably end up working just about 100 days.
DAN ROSTENKOWSKI, FORMER U.S. CONGRESSMAN: It isn't a legislative process anymore. Work one day a week? Work a day-and-a- half a week? I mean, it's crazy. It's just crazy.
HENRY: Jim Cooper, a Democrat, grew up in the hardball world of political campaigns. His father, Prentice Cooper, was governor of Tennessee. In 1982, Jim ran for office himself, and won a seat in Congress.
REP. JIM COOPER (D), TENNESSEE: There was partisanship during the day. But, at night, you would go have a beer or dinner with a person on the other side of the aisle.
Just call me Jim, please.
HENRY: In 1994, the year of the Gingrich revolution, Jim Cooper put his House seat on the line to run for Senate. He lost, and was sent back home to Tennessee.
Then, in 2002, Cooper ran for Congress again. He won, and returned to a very different Washington.
COOPER: No party has completely clean hands. But we have seen such a rapid deterioration, it's shocking. There are very few real hearings today, very few real debates.
HENRY: And the atmosphere had changed. It has become raw, angry, so much so that Republicans and Democrats can barely stand to be in the same room together, something that became clear to Cooper at one late-night committee session.
COOPER: Pizza was ordered. There were Coca-Colas. And people were sitting around eating pizza. But no Democrat was talking to a Republican. And, likewise, no Republican was talking to a Democrat. It was outrageous, because there you are, in a small room, eating pizza, taking a break, and there was no chitchat. It was like you were still at war.
ROSTENKOWSKI: I heard Dick Gephardt, who was then the minority leader, say on television, "I haven't talked to the speaker in six months." And Newt Gingrich was the speaker. I couldn't believe it. I called Gephardt. I says, "Dick, how do you govern?"
He says, "Danny, we just don't talk."
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A man you can trust.
J. HEFLEY: Well, after 20 years, they can make the judgment about that.
HENRY: Joel Hefley was elected to Congress in November of 1986.
J. HEFLEY: The first time we were told was that, you're 23 month from the next election. And, if you haven't started now, you're behind. And I realized later that they're right. They're right.
HENRY: It's a permanent campaign, all about the money. And it has only gotten worse since Hefley arrived.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HENRY: The 1994 Republican revolutionaries mapped out a plan to keep their majority, outmaneuvering and outspending the Democratic opposition.
LINDA KILLIAN, AUTHOR, "THE FRESHMEN: WHAT HAPPENED TO THE REPUBLICAN REVOLUTION?": Literally from the first year that they were in office, the leadership would talk to them about, "How much money did you raise this week?" and keep a tally.
HENRY: Tom DeLay was the architect. Known on the Hill as the Hammer, the Texan pushed members to raise ever more money. Committee assignments and chairmanships, the currency of congressional leaders, were essentially auctioned off, going to those who raised the most money for the party.
J. HEFLEY: You almost have to run a campaign for chairmanship, rather than letting your hard work speak for itself.
HENRY: The permanent campaign kept lawmakers on the road, raising checks like these pouring into a major political lobbying group, and it elevated partisanship above personal relationships.
In 2004, on a trip home to South Dakota, Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle got a big surprise.
DASCHLE: And somebody said, "Well, You know, I hope you will talk to Senator Frist, who is coming out here in a few weeks."
And I said, "Senator Frist is coming out?"
And he said, "Yes, yes."
So, I came back and asked Senator Frist if there was any truth to that, and he said that -- that he wasn't sure yet.
SEN. BILL FRIST (R-TN), MAJORITY LEADER: Bobby (ph), good to see you, sir.
HENRY: Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist did indeed go to South Dakota that year, and campaigned against the leader of the Senate minority.
Trent Lott, who seethed when Frist took his job as Republican leader, was stunned.
LOTT: I understand why he did it, but I wouldn't have done it. And maybe -- maybe I would have been wrong. You know, maybe you should be able to campaign against a colleague and say, hey, nothing personal.
NORMAN ORNSTEIN, AMERICAN ENTERPRISE INSTITUTE: Just imagine what the atmosphere in the Senate would have been like if Frist's gamble had failed, Daschle had come back, and the two of them, guardians of Senate institution, would have to work together on a daily basis?
HENRY: Frist defended his decision, and the gamble paid off. Come November, Tom Daschle was out.
One brisk autumn morning, on the campaign trail, Democratic Congressman John Murtha is rolling down I-25. What America needs, he says, is a Congress willing to speak truth to power.
REP. JOHN MURTHA (D), PENNSYLVANIA: A Congress who will confront and -- and -- and have hearings, and -- and -- and do the things we need to do, in order to change the direction of the country.
HENRY: But, with a White House set on expanding the power of the executive, Capitol Hill has become little more than a rubber stamp for President Bush.
And, in a moment, you will see how some people are working hard to keep it that way.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
HENRY: Colorado Springs, an all-American town, and one of the most conservatives one, at that, it's home to several influential Christian organizations, like Focus on the Family, and no fewer than five military bases.
J. HEFLEY: If you're a representative of this district, you better also be tuned into God and country.
HENRY: It's reliably Republican territory, but, this year, with the Republicans on the ropes, Democrats believe they can win in traditionally red states like Colorado.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have a real chance this year. We have the best candidate.
HENRY: Making the rounds on the campaign trail, Congressman John Murtha, who burst into the spotlight with his searing rebuke of the Bush administration's Iraq policy.
MURTHA: The military has done everything that has been asked of them. The U.S. cannot accomplish anything further in Iraq militarily. It's time to bring the troops home.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's nice to meet you.
MURTHA: Am I going to get a hug, too?
HENRY: As the election approaches, Murtha has become a cheerleader for Democratic candidates around the country.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
HENRY: This Saturday, he holds court in a packed diner, making his case for change.
MURTHA: When I spoke out November of last year, I was way behind the American public. The public was way ahead of me. They understood that something was wrong, that -- and the Congress was not standing up to this president.
HENRY: Murtha, a highly decorated former Marine, thinks voters are tired of timidity.
MURTHA: They want somebody that is willing to speak to power, they're willing to stand up and speak to power, not sit back and just rubber-stamp what -- whatever the administration wants.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, 2001)
CHIEF JUSTICE WILLIAM REHNQUIST, U.S. SUPREME COURT: Congratulations.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HENRY: In 2001, for the first time in nearly 50 years, Republicans controlled the White House and both chambers of Congress. And it's become clear, the president runs the show.
ORNSTEIN: The Republicans in Congress fundamentally see themselves as lieutenants in the president's army.
HENRY: Congress gave the president a free hand and an open checkbook to launch the war in Iraq.
J. HEFLEY: I don't think the administration or Congress asked the questions or had any idea what the extent of the insurgency would be.
HENRY: And, virtually overnight, congressional leaders pushed through the president's plan to create a sprawling Department of Homeland Security...
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: ... thank Tom DeLay for making sure the bill got passed.
HENRY: ... folding FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, into a huge bureaucracy. Too much too fast? The bungled response to Hurricane Katrina suggests it was.
LOTT: We, in the Congress, have abdicated our responsibility, in certain respects. It's not that the executive branches have necessarily taken it. We just left the field.
ROSTENKOWSKI: The two years under Clinton were magnificent. He was like a kid brother to me.
HENRY: Former Congressman Dan Rostenkowski remembers a time when a Democratic Congress was willing to put the brakes on a Democratic White House.
ROSTENKOWSKI: The whole attitude of -- of governing was different then. There was an independence in the legislative branch.
HENRY: Ronald Reagan, says Rostenkowski, understood the balance of power, forging landmark compromises with Democrats.
ROSTENKOWSKI: The secret of my success, I think, is that, the 14 years that I was chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, 12 of them were under Republicans.
HENRY: It seems logical that divided government, Democrats in charge of one branch, Republicans running the other, might cause gridlock. But, when you think about it, it actually seems to produce better results.
ORNSTEIN: I have come to the conclusion, reluctantly -- and I don't have a partisan dog in the fight -- that divided government now may be a better way to go, simply because the incentive, if you're leading an institution that you -- in which you share the responsibility for governing, is to try and make your institution work, because the onus is going to be on you to do so.
HENRY: Trent Lott learned that during Democrat Bill Clinton's second term, when they balanced the federal budget, and cut deals on welfare reform and the minimum wage.
LOTT: I can remember saying to him: "Mr. President, you are the president. And I am the majority leader. Without you, we're not going to get any bills signed into law. And, without me, you're not going to get any bills passed."
HENRY: Democratic Leader Tom Daschle had a very different experience with George W. Bush. Early in his first term, the president invited Daschle and his wife for dinner at the White House.
DASCHLE: It was a nice -- nice evening. Unfortunately, the -- the great chemistry we had that evening didn't last very long.
CONGRESS (singing): Stand beside her and guide her...
HENRY: After the attacks of 9/11, there actually was a burst of genuine bipartisanship. But the goodwill evaporated quickly.
DASCHLE: It's my view that the president and the vice president both are uncompromising.
HENRY: Republicans branded Daschle an obstructionist.
DASCHLE: I wish now we would have been more questioning. I wish now we would have -- we would have not been as -- as embracing.
J. HEFLEY: I'm a cowboy by nature. I -- I rodeoed, and still rodeo.
HENRY: Joel Hefley says Congress does have to rein in presidential power, but it also has to rein itself in, especially when it comes to out-of-control spending.
J. HEFLEY: They act like it's free money, somehow.
HENRY: As a diehard conservative, Hefley was shocked to see the spending spree explode under Republican rule.
And it's only getting worse.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Good afternoon. Congressman Hefley's office. HENRY: For all the change on Capitol Hill, one thing has remained constant. Seniority has its privileges, especially in the majority...
J. HEFLEY: It took me 16 years to get on this side of the building, where I could get a view.
Give that to Kelly (ph), please.
HENRY: ... the best office space, and the ability to call the legislative shots.
J.C. WATTS, FORMER U.S. CONGRESSMAN: I had a guy tell me once, he said: "You know, the -- the lobbyists tell you how smart you are. Your constituents tell you how stupid you are." He said, "You have to find, you know, the balance in there somewhere."
HENRY: But the 1994 Republicans, like the Democrats before them, were seduced by their newfound power, and became desperate to keep it.
KILLIAN: They did think they would do some good things with that power. But it became, over the years, more just about the power.
HENRY: Eventually, even the leader of the Republican revolution, Newt Gingrich, was shoved aside. And Tom DeLay became the power broker on Capitol Hill. DeLay installed, as House speaker, Dennis Hastert. And Hastert leads by the principle that he can forget about the opposition. Only Republican ideas matter.
DASCHLE: Majorityism is, winner take all, that, if you're the winner, you don't really have to include the minority. And, if you're the minority, you really don't have any stake in what's (AUDIO GAP) governance.
HENRY: In the late '90s, the Republican margin in the Senate was razor-thin, so thin, Daschle and then Majority Leader Trent Lott had to share power.
LOTT: Sometimes, I would say to him, or he would say to me, look, if we get this done, there's going to be credit for both of us. Do we always have to drive each other down? (AUDIO GAP) help each other move up.
HENRY: Lott and Daschle even installed hot lines in each of their Capitol offices, like those between Washington and Moscow during the Cold War, to keep a line of communication open in times of crisis. That trust served them well during one of the most bitter periods Congress has ever known.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. TOM DELAY (R), HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER: Believe it or not, I have been very depressed about this whole proceeding.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HENRY: The impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. DICK ARMEY (R), TEXAS: The president of the United States has committed serious transgressions.
REP. DICK GEPHARDT (D), MISSOURI: Stop destroying imperfect people.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And he lied again under oath. He lied again to Congress.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We must stay together as a family, one House, one family.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DASCHLE: We both watched with dismay at what was going on in the House, and the bitter partisanship and the extraordinary hyperbolic tone that was taking place.
He called me -- in fact, it was my birthday, December 9 -- and he said, "We're not going to let that happen in the Senate."
ROSTENKOWSKI: 1879, here.
HENRY (on camera): Ah, there it is, 1879.
ROSTENKOWSKI: That building -- that building was there.
ROSTENKOWSKI: My grandfather moved it from there to where it is, and then built this building.
HENRY (voice-over): Dan Rostenkowski lives in the same Polish neighborhood in Chicago where he grew up, in the house his grandfather built.
ROSTENKOWSKI: Well, you know, what the hell? My -- my kids will sell this in a minute.
HENRY: Rostenkowski subscribes to the old-fashioned notion that lawmakers get paid to put in long hours and make tough decisions.
ROSTENKOWSKI: I don't know what Congress has accomplished in the last five years. I -- I really don't know. Cutting taxes is so easy. Raising taxes is what the genius of Danny Rostenkowski and Ronald Reagan worked.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ronald Reagan, Tip O'Neill would duke it out during the day. But everybody says, at the end of the day, they might have a beer. They might have dinner. They still respected each other. J. HEFLEY: Tip would go down, and they would sing together old Irish songs around the piano, and I think genuinely liked each other.
HENRY: On the day Tip O'Neill retired from Congress, he made one last call to his old friend, the president.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, OCTOBER 17, 1986)
TIP O'NEILL, FORMER SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: We drew down the curtain. I'm walking off the stage. May God be with you all the way. And it was great working with you. Now, while we had our differences, there was never any rancor. And, as an individual, you're a beautiful man.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
J. HEFLEY: I'm a great fan of Ronald Reagan. He's a hero to me. And -- and I got to serve with him for two years.
HENRY: That was in the late '80s, when Joel Hefley was just starting out. But his experience with congressional Democrats wasn't as positive as the president's.
J. HEFLEY: There certainly was not a -- any sweetness and light, in terms of the way they treated Republicans then. I mean, it -- I -- I thought it was the most arrogant, run-roughshod-over-you atmosphere you could possibly have.
HENRY: Dan Rostenkowski ran the powerful House Ways and Means Committee.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROSTENKOWSKI: There's a time to take flight and a time to be right.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HENRY: Joel Hefley went to visit "Rosty" shortly after arriving in Washington, bringing with him another congressman in the freshman class, a young man named Dennis Hastert.
J. HEFLEY: We went in to see Dan Rostenkowski. And he looked at us like we had lost our mind, that here were two freshmen Republicans, for crying out loud, who were coming in and asking to actually pass something.
HENRY: Rostenkowski, a Democrat through and through, had little time or patience for rank-and-file Republicans, like Hefley and Hastert.
ORNSTEIN: Over time, the majority becomes arrogant, high-handed, condescending towards the minority.
HENRY: Arrogance bred complacency. Democrats were about to be trounced, but many never even saw it coming. ROSTENKOWSKI: They walked around with this Contract With America. But it was more, get the rascals out. And we were the rascals. And I remember Tom Foley saying, "Danny, we're in trouble."
I said: "Oh, no. Republicans are lazy. They're not going to -- they're not going to beat us."
And, of course, I was wrong.
J. HEFLEY: And I think, at that time, they didn't think the Republicans would ever be in charge.
HENRY: After 40 years in the political wilderness, the Gingrich Republicans weren't rushing to reach out to Democrats.
These days, compromise is a dirty word on Capitol Hill, camaraderie, a thing of the past.
J. HEFLEY: You elect Nancy Pelosi, an extreme left-wing, San Francisco -- and we elect Tom DeLay. And he is right-winged, antagonistic, a battler. Sometimes, I think he hates Democrats. I don't know. And, so, when you create that at the top, then, the animosity, I think, is worse today maybe than it was back then.
HENRY: With less and less power in the hands of committee chairmen, congressional leaders have a tighter grip on the agenda. In the precious little time that Congress is actually in session, Republican leaders increasingly focus on hot-button issues...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Marriage is the union of a man and a woman.
HENRY: ... debates that are not intended to get legislation passed...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Protecting the flag is an essential thing for us to do.
HENRY: ... but simply to fire up partisans, in advance of the next election.
J. HEFLEY: Many of us scratch our heads and wondered, why in the world is this coming up, or, haven't we voted on this every year for the last five years? Why do we have to vote on it again this year?
HENRY: As a young congressman in the late '80s, Joel Hefley showed he was willing to buck the powers that be. A small-government Reagan Republican, he railed against runaway pork-barrel projects, like the now infamous $231 million bridge to nowhere in Alaska.
J. HEFLEY: One of the basic driving forces among people in Congress is to spend money, and show people back home, look what I brought you.
HENRY: Hefley began giving out a dubious award, "Porker of the Week."
When Republicans took power, they pledged to put the brakes on the reckless spending. In fact, the amount of pork has tripled since Republicans took over, from about 4,100 projects in 1994 to over 14,000 now.
(on camera): Didn't they think that the Democrats had been spending like drunken sailors, and they were going to stop it? What happened?
KILLIAN: They have absolutely turned into the people that they replaced, on steroids. They're in power. The kind of spending they want is good. They see it as an incumbency protection plan.
HENRY (voice-over): That plan has actually landed some lawmakers in deep trouble for trading these special projects for outright bribes.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. RANDY CUNNINGHAM (R), CALIFORNIA: The truth is, I broke the law, concealed my conduct, and disgraced my office.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HENRY: It's been called a culture of corruption. And, one day, Joel Hefley decided to do something about it. And that would put him on a collision course with the most powerful Republican on Capitol Hill.
HENRY: In 1994 Dan Rostenkowski's world came crashing down.
ROSTENKOWSKI: I have no comment to make.
HENRY: Federal prosecutors accused him of charging tens of thousands of dollars in personal gifts to his personal account at the Congressional store and padding his payroll with phantom employees.
ROSTENKOWSKI: I have committed no crime and have engaged in no illegal or unethical conduct.
HENRY: The Congressman was indicted, and the Gingrich revolutionaries held him up as a symbol of all that was corrupt in the Democratic majority, and that November voters threw Dan Rostenkowski out of Congress and the Democrats out of power. Two years later Rostenkowski took a plea bargain and was sentenced to 17 months in prison.
ROSTENKOWSKI: I mismanaged the funds that I had, and, you know, it was that I was giving things away. But listen, that's history.
HENRY: Now history is repeating itself, but this time on a much grander scale. A growing number Congressmen are facing a charge never leveled against Dan Rostenkowski.
ROSTENKOWSKI: These people knowingly took money to pass legislation. I remember a lobbyist coming and says, if we thought you took money, oh, my God, we would have been here with a satchel.
HENRY: Joel Hefley learned the value of a vote as a local lawmaker when he shot down a bill in the Colorado State House.
J. HEFLEY: The lobbyist for the group that wanted it killed came to me afterwards and said, boy, they are really excited. They think you're really great. They'd like to do something for you. They'd like to buy you a Cadillac. And I said oh, no, no, no.
HENRY: By the time Hefley got to Capitol Hill, he was prepared to resist temptation. A quiet, loyal Republican, he blended into the background, so much so that in 1993 a newspaper named him one of the ten most obscure members of Congress.
Then one day Hefley heard he was going to be assigned to a vacant seat on the House Ethics Committee. For the Congressman and his wife Lynn, it was hardly good news.
LYNN HEFLEY, WIFE OF REP. JOEL HEFLEY: I thought well, Joel, it's a very big honor that your colleagues would like you to be on there, but it really, really, really puts the pressure on you. And it really is a difficult thing, and I felt bad for him.
HENRY: (on camera): Did you tell him not to take it?
It sounds like a yes.
(voice-over): The Congressman tried to stall.
J. HEFLEY: I started getting calls from Newt Gingrich, and I knew what he was calling about, so, you know, we have T.V.'s in our offices so that when we're in offices we can watch what goes on the floor. I would wait till I saw Newt and I would return his call, put it in his court. Finally he captured me on the floor of the House.
HENRY: Joel Hefley joined the Ethics Committee in 1997 and became its chairman in 2001. And as we'll see later, it was the beginning of the end of his Congressional career.
ORNSTEIN: There's so much money sloshing around Washington that it's astonishing.
HENRY: That river of money flows largely from the lobbying industry on K Street. There are over 30,000 lobbyists in Washington, a number that's ballooned since Congressman Jim Cooper's first tour of duty in the 1980s.
COOPER: That's 66 lobbyists for every congressman. That's way out of control.
HENRY: Lobbyists fuel the permanent campaign, pumping money into the coffers of lawmakers under constant pressure to raise more and more cash.
LOTT: I am highly offended when people say, oh, you went to eat with a lobbyist. First of all, I don't like going out to eat with anybody. So to infer that I can be had for the price of a meal just chaps me.
HENRY: Trent Lott's approach isn't shared by all his colleagues.
FMR. REP. JAMES TRAFICANT, (D) OHIO: Beam me up.
HENRY: Democrat Jim Traficant, convicted for taking bribes.
J. HEFLEY: I liked Jim Traficant. In this world of buttoned up blue suits in the Congress, you had Jim Traficant, who was a lot of fun and funny. And I liked the guy, and all of the sudden I'm the chief judge and the chief prosecutor of Jim Traficant. And we threw him out of Congress.
CUNNINGHAM: In my life I have had great joy and great sorrow and now I know great shame.
HENRY: Republican Duke Cunningham, who actually drafted a bribe menu. He'd secure a :16 million government contract in exchange for a $140,000 boat.
J. HEFLEY: Duke had gone out of his way to convince me that he didn't do anything wrong. And then I pick up the paper when we're here for a Christmas break and he's confessed to all this stuff. It breaks my heart.
HENRY: The list went on and on. Lawmakers from both parties traded influence for cash, trips, and other luxuries, all offered up by lobbyists, like the infamous Jack Abramoff.
Stunningly after Speaker Hastert vowed to tighten the rules in response to these scandals, Congress has still done nothing to clean up the system. The Republican revolutionaries had been sucked into the very culture of corruption they railed against, and Tom DeLay was the man most associated with the new atmosphere. DeLay never had much use for Joel Hefley. But in the end, it was the mild mannered cowboy Congressman who would hold the Hammer's feet to the fire.
J. HEFLEY: We do pray for wisdom and courage.
HENRY (voice-over): On his way home from work on October 6, 2004, Joel Hefley did some serious soul searching. He had just thrown down the gauntlet before House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, the powerhouse known for squashing anyone who dared stand in his path.
On this night, Hefley's ethics panel had voted unanimously to rebuke DeLay yet again for the third time in one week for trying to pressure a congressman to changing his vote in exchange for political support. For holding a fund-raiser with a top energy company around the same time Congress was considering energy legislation. And for pressuring federal officials to intervene in a Texas political matter.
J. HEFLEY: We followed the evidence where it led, and we voted a unanimous vote, Democrats and Republicans.
HENRY: It was an audacious move. House leaders were caught off guard and Hefley knew he was about to feel their wrath. Still, he was surprised when one of his long-time friends was the first to attack.
J. HEFLEY: He grabbed me on the floor of the House immediately after that happened, and jumped me, and told me what, quote, "a crappy job I had done on that." And I knew if this particular guy was mad at me for what I'd done, that I was sure enough in trouble.
HENRY: It was like Hefley was back in high school, the neighborhood bully had kicked him out of the cool kids club, and his classmates wouldn't even be seen with him.
J. HEFLEY: I'd sit on the floor by myself, and people were reluctant to come and sit with me. You know because they might be identified with Joel, and -- but I accepted that.
HENRY: The message was clear. Politics is a team sport and Joel Hefley was no longer on the team.
(on camera): What did that say about the state of the Republican revolution?
KILLIAN: Well, it obviously had an incredibly chilling effect on any Republican that wanted to say anything about the leadership or on any Republican that wanted to be critical in any way. It was tow the line or you're going to be punished.
HENRY (voice-over): When Joel Hefley tried to clean up politics, he was prepared to pay the price, and as you'll soon see, the man who would hand down his punishment was none other than his old friend Speaker Dennis Hastert.
HENRY: If Joel Hefley's 20 years in Washington taught him anything, it was you don't slap down Tom DeLay and get away with it.
J. HEFLEY: They have all kinds of little ways to punish you.
HENRY: Under attack by the Republican leadership, rejected by his colleagues, Hefley knew the worst was yet to come. Finally around Christmastime 2004, he sat down with his old friend, the congressman he had begun with two decades ago, Speaker Dennis Hastert.
J. HEFLEY: I said, "You know, Denny, I've been there long enough, and I've done my duty, and I'm perfectly happy to be out. I think you're making a mistake, though, if you throw me out because I think you'll make a martyr out of me," and that's exactly what happened.
HENRY: Hastert ousted Hefley to the ethics committee. His replacement, Doc Hastings, a Hastert loyalists.
ORNSTEIN: Many things have made me angry over the last several years. Nothing's made me more indignant than Joel Hefley and other Republicans on the ethics committee being fired for doing their job. Joel Hefley is a very conservative Republican. But an institutionalist, and when he took on the thankless task of being chairman of the ethics committee, he was going to do his job and do it effectively. And as a result, he got unceremoniously booted from the position.
HENRY: It turns out mild-mannered Joel Hefley outlasted Tom DeLay. The Hammer resigned from Congress earlier this year under an ethical cloud and now after two decades Hefley himself is saying goodbye to the House of Representatives.
J. HEFLEY: It was simply that I felt it was time. I finally decided enough's enough, there might be something else to do out there.
HENRY: December 2000 on the north side of Chicago, Dan Rostenkowski gets a Christmas present from Bill Clinton, a full pardon.
ROSTENKOWSKI: The fact that the chief executive of this country recognized that I'm making a contribution is very rewarding.
HENRY: After all those years, the neighborhood embraced the old rascal again.
ROSTENKOWSKI: I walked down the streets, and people always give me a thumbs up, which is heartwarming. Thank you very much.
HENRY: And Rostenkowski walked on, knowing that in the book of Congress, he's but a chapter and a new one will soon be written.
ROSTENKOWSKI: The shoe is now on the other foot. The rascals are the Republicans, and I think you're going to see a change.
BUSH: Colorado is going to lose a really fine congressman in Joel Hefley.
HENRY: Despite his clashes with Republicans leaders, Joel Hefley was standing by the president this fall.
J. HEFLEY: I never have nor never would distance myself from this president. Colorado does not distance itself from this president.
HENRY: With Hefley's retirement, Colorado's Fifth Congressional District is now up for grabs.
ORNSTEIN: It is very unsettling. We have a few prizes, like Hefley, who put concern about the institution and the regular order above their ideology and above their party. They're leaving. Who's going to replace them?
HENRY: District Five has never before elected a Democrat, and Joel Hefley had hoped to endorse his party's nominee to succeed him. But when the Republican primary grew nasty, the congressman's thoughts turned to his political idol, Ronald Reagan, and the president's famous 11th Commandment.
RONALD REAGAN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thou shalt not speak ill of another Republican.
HENRY: And Hefley had an epiphany.
J. HEFLEY: I will never, ever again support a Republican candidate who runs an attacking, negative campaign on his Republican opponent.
HENRY: And that decision put Joel Hefley on yet another collision course with his own party, a battle that could put his seat, and ultimately control of Congress itself, into Democratic hands.
HENRY: For as long as anyone can remember, Colorado Springs has been a town of hard-core Republicans, God and country folks, more likely to elect deer than Democrats.
That could all change this year, when Congressman Joel Hefley's name won't be on the ballot.
Now, two candidates are battling to take Hefley's place.
DOUG LAMBORN (R-CO), CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: Folks, I'm a Ronald Reagan Republican.
JAY FAWCETT (D-CO), CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: You want to talk about what it's like to be in the southwest desert of Iraq with a rifle in a rucksack? I've been there.
HENRY: For the first time in a generation, the Fifth Congressional District has a real battle on its hands. One autumn weekend, the Republican candidate, state Senator Doug Lamborn, dropped by the monthly meeting of the Sunrise Women's Republican Club.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The people who trust in the Lord will become strong again.
HENRY: Lamborn's brand of conservatism goes over well here.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Protecting God's greatest gift, Senator Doug Lamborn sponsored more pro-life bills than anyone in the legislature.
HENRY: In the Republican primary, Lamborn's allies sent out mailings accusing several of his opponents, including one former Hefley aide, of promoting the, quote, "homosexual agenda."
For Joel Hefley, that crossed the line. He branded Lamborn's campaign "sleazy and dishonest."
J. HEFLEY: If we keep rewarding people who run the dirty, attacking, dishonest campaigns, then you're going to get more dirty, attacking, dishonest campaigns.
HENRY: The congressman has refused to endorse Lamborn, a decision that's creating quite a stir.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hefley said that he's not supporting you, despite the fact that you're in the same party.
LAMBORN: Most Republicans are supporting me because they're good, loyal team players.
HENRY: Hefley's move caused a political earthquake in Colorado Springs and breathed life into the campaign of the Democratic candidate, a Gulf War vet named Jay Fawcett, who this morning was on his way to pick up a special guest: Congressman John Murtha, who flew in to campaign for the long shot, who's not so much of a long shot anymore.
REP. JOHN MURTHA (D), PENNSYLVANIA: You have to have people in Congress that understand the military, the limitations of power, with the background of Jay Fawcett.
HENRY: Maybe so, but Fawcett Murtha's call to pull out of Iraq.
(on camera): Doesn't it sound like you're trying to have it both ways?
FAWCETT: I like John Murtha. I agree the debate needs to occur. But I still can disagree with him on how we effect the change.
LAMBORN: I think bringing John Murtha into town is a disgraceful thing to do. And what message does that send to the terrorists? It tells the terrorists that if they're only patient, if they only wait it out, America will show itself to be weak and unreliable, and America will cut and run.
HENRY: Republican Doug Lamborn stands four square behind President Bush on Iraq.
(on camera): We know that you don't believe in the Murtha plan. You've made that clear. What's the Lamborn plan?
LAMBORN: I don't have my own plan. I think that the people who are there in the military on the ground have the best advice and the best way to dictate the course of the war.
HENRY (voice-over): The campaign is fierce, charged with emotion, mirroring battles being fought across the nation this year.
LAMBORN: I'm proud to say that the speaker of the House has said that he intends to put me on the House Armed Services Committee.
FAWCETT: Mr. Hastert. This is a guy who has been protecting a pedophile for the last five months, if not the last five years. Well, you know, I've taken a lot of hits for the Democratic Party not understanding morals. There you go.
HENRY: Colorado Republicans are pushing back hard.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Assume nothing. Because when you start assuming things, you end up with a Democrat telling you what to do.
HENRY: And even if Fawcett wins this November, Colorado Republicans will immediately start planning to take him down two years from now.
HENRY: The candidate vows not to get sucked in to the permanent campaign.
FAWCETT: If I'm able to show the constituents of this district I'm actually able to do the part of the job that represents them, then I'll have a good edge toward reelection.
HENRY: But then his campaign manager jumps in. If Fawcett wins, she says, his reelection effort will immediately kick into high gear. The fund-raising, she adds, will never stop.
J. HEFLEY: Something about horses that's very comforting.
HENRY: Joel Hefley never wanted to make waves, but his refusal to endorse Doug Lamborn could ultimately hand Congress itself to the Democrats.
J. HEFLEY: I just took a stand on the principle that I'd like to do some little thing that would change the political atmosphere, and it probably won't, but it's -- what can I do? I mean, that's all I can do.
HENRY: And at the end of the day, Congressman Hefley, the Reagan Republican, the quiet crusader, the unlikeliest of rebels, is at peace.
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