If Rep. Weiner stays in Congress, will he become irrelevant?
Former members of Congress paint a grim picture of what could await Rep. Weiner if he doesn't resign, including shunning and loss of influence. Democrats are already edging away.
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In a NY1/Marist poll released Tuesday, 51 percent of New York City voters said Weiner should not resign, while 30 percent said he should. However, many residents within his own district said they could differentiate between his personal problems and his professional activities.
Weiner is up for reelection in 2012 with reports that some Democrats are already trying to line up someone to run against him in the primary. Republicans have called for his resignation. And Representative Schwartz, in her prepared statement said, “Having the respect of your constituents is fundamental for a Member of Congress. In light of Anthony Weiner's offensive behavior online, he should resign."
“I have to believe he is a liability going into the 2012 cycle, and both he and the party have to take that into account,” says Costas Panagopoulos, a professor of political science at Fordham University in New York.
IN PICTURES: Who is Congressman Anthony Weiner?
If Weiner were to get reelected, he would not be the first Congress member to serve after a scandal. Last year, as reports of financial improprieties surfaced, Rep. Charles Rangel (D) of New York resigned as chairman of the Ways and Means Committee. He was reelected and days later censured by the House.
However, “it’s pretty clear that Charlie has been pretty much neutered," says Frenzel. "He’s not a spokesman on taxes, his opinions are not solicited, and I would guess his life in Congress is substantially less rewarding than his earlier career.”
The Barney Frank model
Public rebuke does not necessarily end a politician’s career. In 1991, the House reprimanded Barney Frank (D) of Massachusetts for bringing discredit on the House after it was found he had tried to fix some parking tickets for a man living in his house and had tried to influence the individual’s parole officer. Representative Frank not only survived the scandal but ultimately became chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, which rewrote the financial rules for the banking industry after the housing collapse.
“He was pretty upfront about it, didn’t try to hide anything,” says Mr. Davis, now owner of Davis Capital Investment Ideas. “His political effectiveness did not suffer from it.”
Sen. David Vitter (R) of Louisiana also survived a scandal after it was revealed his name showed up on the phone records of Deborah Jeane Palfrey, the so-called D.C. Madam, who ran an escort service with a number of high-profile clients.
He apologized and was reelected last November.
In Weiner’s case, he could yet be an effective legislator, says Mr. Panagopoulos. But the longer he remains in Congress, the greater the risk that the Republicans will turn him into a “poster child for scandalous behavior,” he adds.
The only way Weiner can end the drama, he says, is to resign.
“This story has so many legs, it’s not going away anytime soon,” Panagopoulos says.
IN PICTURES: Ethically challenged Congressmen