Jefferson was a corrupt freelancer . . . a more-or-less random member of congress abusing his office for personal gain. Compare this to the case of Tom DeLay, the key mover-and-shaker in the Republican caucus for many years and an important one for years before that. His muck-worthy activities not only accrued to a more significant player, but also bore a direct relationship to the creation and sustenance of the GOP machine.
Beyond DeLay, the salient point about, say, the Dukester is that his cash-for-contracts scheme was in many ways continuous with standard operating procedure for the Republican Party. It was different. But a difference of degree, not of kind. Normally, the cash comes in as campaign contributions or lobbying jobs for yourself and your retainers rather than pocket money or boats. But the public policy auction is happening at all levels. Look at the energy bill, or the farm bill, or the Medicare bill. Legislation is for sale to the highest bidder in all cases. That -- and not the fact that this or that Republican may or may not be under indictment -- is the point. And it connects up with the pattern of executive branch lawlessness and malfeasance. The overall attitude is that the institutions of government are the property of the people who happen to be holding power; power that can be deployed without constraint on behalf of its holders or their paymasters.
This is dead on. It's the Republican "culture of corruption" for a reason: the Republican method of governing, that is pay-for-play politics and aggressive courting of lobbyists and allowing corporate interests to draft legislation, lends itself to corruption because the Republican party no longer answers to its constituents. In such a system as we have, where the candidate with the most money wins 95% of the time, Republicans no longer answer to their constituents. They simply assume that, after they let ExxonMobil and Halliburton and AT&T do the actual business of governing, they can use the flood of contributions to brainwash the public and press into ambivalence about which party is worse while galvanizing the Christian "wackos" (to use the words of Jack Abramoff) to get the vote out.
Meanwhile, the Democrats are taking their message to the people, all over the country, while using Democracy Bonds and small contributions to start replacing the money they used to get from lobbyists and big business. In fact, some time ago news broke that lobbyists are getting ticked off at Democrats because, all of sudden, Democrats don't seem to care about meeting with them. Of course, they said it was Dean's fault. For once, they were right.
The choice in November gets simpler every day.