Fallout From Check-Kiting Scandal

How have House members dealt with the negative publicity from revelations of overdrawn checks? Monitor writers around the country found out it's been everything from yelling to placating. New York

BOTH Rep. Robert Mrazek (D) of Long Island and Rep. Stephen Solarz (D) from Brooklyn, moved swiftly to try to limit the damage of the check-kiting scandal.

Both insist the charges against them are overblown and that the bank was sloppily managed. Mr. Mrazek, a five-term representative, says he may reassess his decision to run for the US Senate but only after he has made it clear to "fair-minded" people that he did nothing wrong.

"A shot was fired across the bow of incumbents everywhere, and it lands like a thud in the context of the recession and an anti-politician [voter] outlook," says Dr. Lee Miringoff, director of the Marist Institute of Public Opinion which conducts frequent polls in the state. "There's no hidden complexity; this is something everyone can understand."

The other two New Yorkers on the list, also Democrats, are James Scheuer and Edolphus Towns of Brooklyn. Mr. Towns has said that part of the problem was a former staff member who embezzled funds in support of a drug habit.

"It's clearly a short-term problem - this is the toughest time," says New York Democratic State Chairman John Marino. "But I think there is a real individual factor here related to the Solarz of the world, the Ed Towns...These guys have been around a long time... If you have a record to stand on, that's what you need to really focus on."

Laurie Rhodebeck, a political scientist at the University of Buffalo, agrees that some voters may choose to focus on lawmakers' service records when they vote in the fall.

Those who have written bad checks only a few times for small amounts also may be more likely to be forgiven.

"But the more egregious offenders may only end up hurting themselves if they try to come up with too many excuses," says Professor Rhodebeck. "Someone with 500 overdrafts is probably going to be better off saying, 'I really am sorry.' "

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