By Terrence McCoy
By Scott Fishman
By Deirdra Funcheon
By Allie Conti
By New Times Staff
By Ryan Pfeffer
By Deirdra Funcheon
By Kyle Swenson
"I am a queen, and I demand to be treated like a queen," she once told an aide, according to the Houston Press.
When she flies home for visits, she demands that a staffer be waiting with a motorized car to whisk her from the gate. And when she goes abroad, while the rest of the congressional delegation usually travels by military bus, nothing less than a black Mercedes will do to squire her around town.
Although government employees are banned from performing personal services for elected officials, Roll Call magazine discovered that Lee was ordering low-paid workers to run errands during off-hours. Some chauffeured her to the hairdresser. Others picked up her laundry. One was summoned from bed after midnight to fetch a bottle of garlic supplements.
The work environment is so bad that one ex-employee was warned by a doctor to either quit or die from the stress. "It's like being an Iraq War veteran," said another.
All this might be easier to swallow if Lee were abusing her power for something important. Yet when it comes to being ineffectual, she's the Democratic answer to Louie Gohmert.
The congresswoman is known as a grandstander extraordinaire, her floor speeches both endless and mind-blistering. At the start of one such effort, journalist Robert Draper counted 100 Democrats on the House floor. Within the first minute, 80 had fled for cover.
"If she was effective, it'd be forgivable," says a Texas Republican who asked not to be named. "But she's not. The only reason she proposes anything is to get airtime."
In fact, abusing employees may be Lee's only achievement after 18 years in Washington. No member of Congress has proposed more failed amendments, indicative of her lack of legislative juice. According to C-Span, Lee has had 39 proposals spiked in the past year alone.
3. Trent Franks (R-Arizona)
You Say "Tomato"; He Says "Abortion"
He may be the country's most irrelevant congressman, passing exactly zero of the 45 bills he's sponsored. Few have been taken seriously enough to even merit a vote.
As Frank sees it, his job isn't to move America forward. It's to talk, talk, and talk some more about abortion.
"Abortion has been his one and only issue," says Arizona Democratic Party spokesman Frank Camacho. "That's his main claim to fame."
This proved true during a recent House debate on fiscal policy, when Illinois congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. — who recently pleaded guilty to blowing $750,000 in campaign contributions on his wife and himself — asked if anyone could explain a balanced-budget amendment. Franks eagerly offered his assistance. "I'll give it a shot," he said.
He then proceeded to talk for three minutes about — what else? — abortion. (And Nazis too!)
Franks has called Obama the "abortion president" and once claimed that abortion laws were more devastating to African-Americans than slavery.
But his zealotry hasn't been particularly effective. Unable to pass national legislation, he lowered his sights to the capital city, pushing a law that would ban women in Washington, D.C., from having an abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy.
When D.C. residents objected in a novel way — by lining up outside Franks' office and asking the Arizona legislator they sarcastically called "mayor" to fix potholes — Franks clumsily sidestepped. "District of Columbia is not the issue," he said. "It's the pain of the child."
The protesters, however, had little to fear. The bill soon died on the House floor. Like everything else Franks does, it was merely one more piece of amateur theater in an ongoing show with no foreseeable end.
2. Paul Broun (R-Georgia)
Science Is the Devil's Playground
One of the more distressing movements in Jindal's "stupid party" is its increasingly anti-scientific fervor. Leading the charge is Georgia congressman Paul Broun, who believes that science is the devil's work. Literally.
"All that stuff I was taught about evolution and embryology and the Big Bang Theory, all that is lies straight from the pit of hell," Broun once declared.
In a speech before a sportsman's club, Broun told the audience that while Jesus hates science, Our Savior showed a great deal of enthusiasm in getting Paul Broun elected to Congress and helping him kill a Kodiak bear and two lions.
He's also accused President Obama of upholding the Soviet constitution rather than the U.S. version. Among his proudest moments: He claims to be the first politician to call Obama a "socialist."
Though Broun represents a fundamentalist swath outside Atlanta, his anti-science views don't reflect a sliver of sanity in his district known as Athens, home to the University of Georgia. So biologist Jim Leebens-Mack started a write-in campaign against the congressman.
Instead of running himself, Mack encouraged voters to back a new candidate: Charles Darwin. Broun may have won reelection, but the long-deceased Darwin still managed to get 4,100 votes.