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Democrats: GOP selling U.S. to 'highest bidder'

Rep. Slaughter says corruption may be worst in Congressional history

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Under Republican control, America has been "put up for sale to the highest bidder" and its government has been transformed into an "engine of patronage, not one of responsible policy," a Democratic congresswoman said Saturday in the party's weekly radio address.

"As Americans, we have a right to expect that our government will be defined by the integrity of its office holders," said Rep. Louise Slaughter of New York. "And yet today, we are suffering the consequences of what may be the worst corruption in the history of our Congress."

Slaughter cited the case of Rep. Tom DeLay, the former House majority leader who has been indicted on criminal charges of money laundering, and that of Randy "Duke" Cunningham, who resigned after pleading guilty to bribery.

She also noted Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff pleaded guilty this week to charges of bribing public officials, tax evasion and fraud.

But the problem, she said, is larger than those people -- it's "a problem rooted in the Republican establishment which has held power in our nation's capital for more than a decade."

"Since 1995, Republicans have turned our democratic government into an engine of patronage, not one of responsible policy," she said. "They have linked their party, and the business of the country, to powerful lobbyists in an unprecedented attempt to eliminate the will of the American people from the legislative process."

In the last five years, Slaughter said, the number of special-interest lobbyists in Washington has grown from 9,500 to more than 34,000. "Under Republican guidance, America has truly been put up for sale to the highest bidder," she said.

Democrats, she said "have fought for an honest and open government" and will continue to push for independent investigations of issues such as the federal response to Hurricane Katrina. Also, she said, we will fight for the rehabilitation of the ethics process in the House of Representatives."

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