Some politicians you can just watch them speak once on C-Span and you know that they have money hidden in their freezer. Others, you’re not surprised when you find out that they’re corrupt. But, if someone had asked me to name five Senators who actually tried to vote in the public interest at least most of the time, Olympia Snowe of Maine would have been on that list. I’m so naïve sometimes.

478px Olympia Snowe  official photo 2

It turns out that Snowe’s husband, John McKernan, is the CEO of a firm that is being investigated by the Justice Department for defrauding the government. His firm, Education Management Corporation, one of the nation’s largest for-profit educational firms, is charged with illegally paying recruiters bonuses that were based upon the number of students they enrolled into their schools, regardless of the chance of success for these entrants.

In the 12 years that McKernan has headed the firm, he and his wife have received millions of dollars from EDMC in bonuses and compensation. That income stream may be threatened now as the Department of Education is restricting funds to educational institutions that cater to students who have incredibly low chances to succeed, and therefore have virtually no likelihood of ever paying back taxpayers. Snowe is expected to employ all of her significant networking abilities to derail these regulations.

We have long known of the sleazy internecine web of lawmakers using federal legislation to help their own families. Some of my favorite examples are:

John Dingell – For years, Dingell, who has been a member of Congress since shortly after the Civil War, has fought tooth and nail to enable General Motors management to destroy their massive firm, even while it continually lost market share to foreign firms. Then, a few years ago, he engineered the efforts by the federal government to save the company from bankruptcy. His wife, Debbie, meanwhile, is Executive Director for Public Affairs for GM. I wonder what qualifications she provided for this job. I wonder if it helped her that her husband was Chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. I wonder if she’ll divorce him to wed his Republican counterpart if the Democrats don’t take back the House next year.

Eric Cantor – Eric Cantor, the House Majority Leader, has been placed in charge of the Republican House members’ efforts to negotiate the budget deal. But during the bank bailout, Cantor was nowhere to be found. I wonder why. It may have had something to do with his wife, Diana, being the Managing Director of Emigrant Bank, one of the nation’s largest lending institutions. What were her qualifications? Well, she was a CPA. I’m sure that her familial ties had absolutely nothing to do with her employment.

There are hundreds of stories like this in Washington. These are just my own favorites. You can look at virtually any of our Senators or Congressmen and see this replayed. I’m sure that all of these spouses are great people. When they’re at cocktail parties, I’m sure that they make great company. I’m also pretty sure that when a Tea Party member decides to challenge Snowe, there will be 99 other Senators who campaign for her. What I’m not sure about is this, were these people corrupt before they came to the nation’s capital or did Washington turn them to into the public servants that they now are.