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Is this the NBA or the NFL?



36 have been accused of spousal abuse


7 have been arrested for fraud


19 have been accused of writing bad checks


117 have directly or indirectly bankrupted at least 2 businesses


3 have done time for assault


71, repeat 71 cannot get a credit card due to bad credit


14 have been arrested on drug-related charges


8 have been arrested for shoplifting


21 currently are defendants in lawsuits.


84 have been arrested for drunk driving


Can you guess which organization this is?




























It's the 535 members of the United States Congress.

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Guest markotsay7



Origins: The 535

men and women (100 Senators and 435 Representatives) who comprise the United States Congress are the core of our democratic system ? the people we elect (and pay) to represent us to our federal government and make the laws that regulate our society. We therefore somewhat unrealistically expect them to be paragons of virtue, selfless public servants dedicated to the task of making our country a better place for everyone, into whose heads the very thought of wrongdoing never intrudes. Congressmen are mere human beings, however, and so some of them exhibit the same flawed behaviors as some of us: they lie, they steal, they cheat on their spouses, they put personal gain ahead of public service, they line their pockets at the expense of those whom they are supposed to serve, etc. None of this should be surprising to anyone but the most naive among us. What is surprising is that so many people willingly circulate the above-cited piece of cheap, inflammatory tripe expecting it to be taken seriously.


No names or dates are mentioned, of course, so trying to match individuals with the vague charges levelled in this text would be a fruitless task (especially since the composition of Congress changes at least every two years, and the piece is undated). In any case that effort would be pointless, for this article is nothing more than a cheap smear: no one in it is cited as actually having done something wrong, but merely of having been "arrested" or "accused," or being a "defendant," or having been "stopped." Isn't our system supposed to be based upon the presumption that a person is innocent until proved guilty?


One can be arrested without being convicted of a crime (or even being charged with one), so the mere mention of an arrest with no other detail is meaningless. And when did these alleged arrests of Congressmen occur? While the arrestees were serving in Congress? While they were running for office? Before they became politicians? When they were juveniles? Thirty-two arrests and no convictions should probably make us more concerned about problems with our law enforcement and legal systems than it should about the people who make up Congress.


The claims that numerous Congressmen have been "accused" of various wrongdoings is even more specious. "Accused"? By whom? Journalists? Jealous rivals? Bitter ex-spouses? Childhood enemies? Muckrakers? Gossip mongers? I suspect that every single member of Congress has been "accused" of something bad at one time or another. By what standards does an accusation become "serious" or "official" enough to merit inclusion in this list?


Even the entries that contain some marginal detail are too vague to be relevant. We're told than 117 Congressmen "have bankrupted at least two businesses." What does that mean? Were all 117 personally and solely responsible for driving thriving businesses into the ground, or were they merely nominal board members of companies that went belly up? Were these businesses large companies, or the equivalent of mom-and-pop shops run out of someone's home? More importantly, is failing at business in today's volatile business environment supposed to be considered a moral failure as well as an economic one? Is being a successful businessman a prerequisite for being a legislator, or is it a sign or moral turpitude that should automatically disqualify one from office?


21 Congressmen "are current defendants in lawsuits"? What kinds of lawsuits? What are the merits of these lawsuits? Are these Congressmen supposedly being sued for infractions such as breach of contract, or merely because some cranky neighbors don't like they way they painted their houses?


71 "have credit reports so bad they can't qualify for a credit card"? Heck, a single late payment can ruin your credit report these days, assuming your spotless rating hasn't already been done in by completely erroneous information mistakenly placed on your record by a credit reporting agency. And despite common public perception, Congressmen incur some considerable financial obligations as part of their jobs without receiving tremendously large salaries in return, so if some of them had trouble making ends meets, that wouldn't make them much different than many of us.


84 Congressmen "were stopped for drunk driving, but released after they claimed Congressional immunity." Again, being "stopped" is in itself no indication of wrongdoing, and the Constitution (Article I, Section 6) gives Congressmen privilege against arrest while Congress is in session (in order to prevent others from using the power of law enforcement to intimidate them). Although protecting members of Congress against traffic tickets may not be exactly what the Founding Fathers had in mind when then crafted Article I, how many of us would disdain a constitutional protection to avoid trouble with the law? Would any one of us, even if he were guilty of a crime, not challenge an unwarranted search of his home performed in violation of the Fourth Amendment? I doubt many of us would stand on niceties if we had "Get Out of Jail Free" cards we could play, either.


All that said, this list wasn't made up out of whole cloth. The information was taken from a series of articles that appeared in an on-line publication called Capitol Hill Blue (whose motto is "Because nobody's life, liberty or property is safe while Congress is in session . . .") in August 1999, and gained widespread currency when a brief summary (stripped of what little supporting evidence the articles had in the first place) was irresponsibly run in a syndicated weird news column with no clue as to where the reader might find the source material on which it was based.


What appears in the original Capitol Hill Blue articles doesn't exactly validate the list by any responsible journalistic standards. The series includes lengthy articles about four of Congress' worst offenders, a screed about how Congressmen have "a long tradition of corruption and ambivalence," and a heap of vague innuendo. We're told that "117 members of the House and Senate have run at least two businesses each that went bankrupt, often leaving business partners and creditors holding the bag," but no detail about who these members were, the nature of the businesses that failed, why the businesses failed, or who was left "holding the bag" (and for how much). We're informed that "seventy-one of them have credit reports so bad they can't get an American Express card," but we're provided with no details about whom or why. Have these people been kiting checks, did they absent-mindedly make a few late credit card payments, or were they innocent victims of credit reporting agency screw-ups? And since when is not qualifying for an American Express card the standard by which "bad credit" is judged? I probably couldn't qualify for an AmEx card because I don't have sufficient income. Does that mean I have "bad credit" unquestionably caused by personal fiscal irresponsibility?


Most everything found in the Capitol Hill Blue articles continues in this vein. "Twenty-nine members of Congress have been accused of spousal abuse in either criminal or civil proceedings," it says. Well, at least we know the "accusations" were made in the context of court cases, but they remain nothing more than accusations nonetheless. Were any Congressmen actually convicted of spousal abuse, or did any of them have to pay civil damages because of their abusive behavior towards their spouses? You won't find out from Capitol Hill Blue. "Twenty-one are current defendants in various lawsuits, ranging from bad debts, disputes with business partners or other civil matters." Is this really supposed to have any significance in a society where people can and do sue at the drop of a hat, often for the most frivolous of reasons? How about telling us who was successfully sued, and why? That effort appears to be beyond the ability (or the inclination) of Capitol Hill Blue staff. Why ruin a good story with pesky facts, after all?


As we mentioned at the outset, members of Congress are human beings just like the rest of us, and thus they're subject to the same foibles as everyone else. This doesn't mean that we should meekly accept the wrongdoings of some of them as par for the course or turn a blind eye when they break the law, but neither does it mean they aren't entitled to the same considerations and protections as the rest of us ? including the right to be tried in a court of law rather than a court of public opinion. Many of our Congressional representatives are in fact dedicated, hard-working public servants, and tarring them all with the same brush of anonymous, vague accusation does no one any good.


"If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem" the adage goes. Save your efforts for rooting out those who truly breach the public trust instead of wasting time and energy in smearing an institution and everyone who comprises it by passing this cheap bit of scandal-mongering netlore along.


In 2001 the e-mail about U.S. Members of Congress was remade into a Canadian form of it:



[Collected on the Internet, 2001]

Can you imagine working for a company that has a little more than 300 employees, and has the following statistics:


30 have been accused of spousal abuse

9 have been arrested for fraud

14 have been accused of writing bad checks

95 have directly or indirectly bankrupted at least 2 businesses

4 have done time for assault

55 cannot get a credit card due to bad credit

12 have been arrested on drug related charge

4 have been arrested for shop lifting

16 are currently defendants in lawsuits

62 have been arrested from drunk driving in the last year


Can you guess which organization this is?


It is the 301 MPs in the Canadian Parliament!


Some of the versions in circulation of the Canadian form of the e-mail assert the information came from The Ottawa Citizen, which is the newspaper in Canada's capital city, Ottawa. That tidbit is wholly false ? The Ottawa Citizen never ran such an article.


Another country that has had this e-mailed list applied to it was India:



[Collected on the Internet, 2000]

Can you imagine working for the following company? It has a little over 500 employees with the following statistics:


29 have been accused of spousal abuse.

7 have been arrested for fraud.

19 have been accused of passing bad checks.

117 have bankrupted at least two businesses.

3 have been arrested for assault.

71 cannot get credit or loans due to bad credit histories.

114 have been arrested on drug related charges.

8 have been arrested for shop-lifting.

21 are current defendants on various lawsuits.



In 1998 alone, 84 were stopped for drunk driving. Can you guess what organisation this is? Give up?


It is the 545 members of the Lower House of Parliament of India that work for me and you. The same group that cranks out hundreds upon hundreds of laws designed to keep the rest of us in line...

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