BEST SCANDAL - 2004
switching long distance services with deceptive telemarketing pitches
Back in the bad old days, political graft was unambiguous. As the Vice President, Spiro Agnew accepted cash bribes in paper sacks in the basement of the White House. There was a certain straightforward integrity to such old-school corruption. Nowadays, most graft is the lawyered variety. For the most part, the rotten deals between politicians and business people aren't illegal anymore. But that doesn't make them stink any less. Such is the case with Telegate, the mini-furor that erupted this summer after the St. Paul Pioneer Press detailed the hidden relationship between Gov. Tim Pawlenty, various other members of a tight-knit GOP cabal, and assorted bottom-feeding telecom outfits. One of the companies, New Access, was notorious for "slamming" consumers--in other words, getting them to switch long distance services with deceptive telemarketing pitches--and was repeatedly sued in several states for the practice. Pawlenty, who as a candidate for governor earned lucrative consulting fees from telecom buddy Elam Baer, denied any knowledge of New Access skullduggery, quietly amended his financial disclosure forms, and skated away with his squeaky clean reputation a little sullied.